Skin-to-skin contact with your newborn: How to do, when to do it and why it benefits both of you

We always hear about the benefits and wonders of skin to skin contact – how it creates stronger bonds, magically seems to boost their health, to mimic the womb and even allegedly reduce feelings of pain. It’s been linked to improved breast feeding, better physical and developmental support and temperature regulation, among other things. According to mammalian neuroscience, the contact in this intimate position actually stimulates neuro-behaviours that could have long-term benefits for both mum and baby.

So how exactly do we do it as well as we can and get the most out of the practice, both for us and baby?

Person Covering Infant With Swaddling Blanket

How do I do it?

So for skin-to-skin contact, baby just be clean and dry and laid directly onto their mother’s bare chest, before covering you both in a warm blanket. The practice usually lasts about an hour or until after they feed.

Also known as ‘kangaroo care’, it can be practised whenever baby is in need of comfort or calming as it nurtures the bond between parent and child. It also creates very strong, instinctive behaviours in both of you, so you may find your maternal hormones strengthening, resulting in you smelling, stroking and engaging with baby more.

Person Holding Baby's Feet in Selective Focus Photography

Babies, on the other hand, may experience their first breastfeed if they are left uninterrupted in this position for long enough, following an instinctive process. This is called self-attachment and it’s the process of the baby familiarising themselves with their mother’s breast, which could lead to fewer feeding problems later down the line.

What are some of the benefits of skin-to-skin contact?

It calms both of you

Stimulates digestion

Regulates heart rate, temperature and breathing

Improves health through friendly bacteria providing protection

regulates temperature

Surges maternal hormones to support breastfeeding and mothering instinct

When should you try it?

Baby Beside Woman

There are many times you can try skin-to-skin contact, but the most important time to try it is after birth. This contact allows them to enter a relaxation stage which allows them to recover from the birth, start to wake up, respond to mum’s voice and begin to make their first moves.

All of this is with the goal of reaching self-attachment, as they will begin to move themselves towards the breast, familiarising themselves with it by nuzzling, smelling and licking around the area. Don’t rush this process and allow them to find it in their own time if possible Interrupting them doesn’t allow them to figure it out themselves and begin to suckle. If they do attach, both you and baby may need some help adjusting and positioning, but this help and support is fine.

For more information, see here.

Fiona Murphy is a freelance writer, specialising in book-related content, fiction and poetry. She can be found drinking tea, craving tapas or attempting to finish her never-ending-novel.

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