Why skin-to-skin contact is important
A warm hug from a friend. Holding the hand of a loved one. A mother’s kiss on a skinned knee. Touch is an integral part of our lives. It can bring comfort, closeness and speak volumes about feelings where words may fail. Imagine then, what touch can do for a newborn who has just left the coziness of the womb.
For many years, mom and baby were automatically separated after birth, sometimes out of medical necessity and other times as standard practice. Thanks to changing attitudes in health care, informed parents and over 40 years of research proving its benefits, more newborns and parents are experiencing the powerful results of skin-to-skin contact.
Also known as kangaroo care, skin-to-skin contact is when a naked baby is placed directly on the bare chest of a mother or caregiver as soon as possible after birth. Now, hospitals and birthing centers are finding ways to keep mom and baby together, whether the baby was delivered vaginally or via C-section, so they can enjoy the many benefits of kangaroo care.
Kangaroo care has been shown to:
- Stabilize the vital signs of both mother and baby
- Calm the baby and reduce crying
- Help stimulate breastfeeding
- Improve the bond between the baby and caregiver, which also helps the caregiver understand a baby’s non-verbal signals
- Reduce the length of many hospital stays
- Stabilize body temperature and heart rate, especially in pre-term babies
- Optimize development
Incorporating kangaroo care into your birth plan
Before delivery, talk to your healthcare provider about your desire for skin-to-skin contact after your baby’s birth. Find out how your hospital or birthing center can help keep your baby close, and consider incorporating your request for kangaroo care into your documented birth plan. You can also request kangaroo care with your baby at any time after delivery.
Even if you don’t plan to breastfeed, kangaroo care is beneficial. Your maternity care provider can demonstrate safe ways to incorporate skin to skin contact while bottle-feeding or while your baby is resting.
If you anticipate having visitors during the early days of your baby’s life, inform them of your plans to provide kangaroo care for your baby. This can help ensure you have the time and privacy needed to bond, along with valuable support and encouragement from important people in your baby’s life.
Extending kangaroo care
While skin-to-skin contact is most beneficial immediately following birth, the practice can and should continue throughout the following weeks and months. Skin-to-skin contact is beneficial in helping babies bond with caregivers. This can extend to fathers and even grandparents.
To learn more about the benefits of kangaroo care and how you can incorporate it into your birth experience, speak with your maternity care provider. If you need a maternity care provider, visit mercy.com today.
Want to know more about the importance of skin-to-skin contact? Read our volunteer story here.