13 Cool Facts About Skin-To-Skin Care That You Should Know

Image provided by Dion Hinchcliffe

Image provided by Dion Hinchcliffe

I attended Lamaze International's Conference last week and came away with so much mind-blowing information but one very clear takeaway: Skin-to-skin can make almost anything better.

What do I mean when I say skin-to-skin? I mean that a naked or diapered newborn baby is put to the skin of the woman who just birthed the baby.

Here are 13 facts I learned about skin-to-skin:

  1. Holding your baby skin-to-skin while painful procedures are being done may reduce the newborn's perception of the pain.  

  2. Early skin-to-skin may increase the likelihood of successful breastfeeding for up to four months and promote longer feeding durations at each session.

  3. In countries without high-tech neonatal intensive care for low-birth-weight infants, skin-to-skin (aka Kangaroo Care) was found to decrease infant morbidity from infection, fever or respiratory issues and to significantly improve birth weight, body length, head circumference, and breastfeeding.

  4. Exposure to the bacteria found on your skin can help protect your newborn from certain infections and contribute to positive gut bacteria.

  5. When newborns are held skin-to-skin either parent, after being birthed via cesarean, it can help your baby regulate their body temperature and increase their glucose levels faster than to babies who are treated in a warmer.

  6. Mom, your oxytocin increases when your newborn is put skin-to-skin and when they massage your breast or suckle. Oxytocin is the hormone that promotes maternal bonding and love. It also helps your uterus contract back down to size and promotes milk production.

  7. Even 15 minutes of skin-to-skin time with your newborn can increase your confidence and level of comfort in caring for your new baby.

  8. Mothers who held their newborns skin-to-skin at birth, at 3 months, kissed their babies more often and spent more time looking at their faces than mothers who did not have skin-to-skin contact.

  9. One study found that when they compared babies who were held skin-to-skin to babies separated from their mother, separated newborns had 10 times the number of cries and 40 times the duration of crying.

  10. Touch and motion, both provided by skin-to-skin, are the most critical factors for brain development in infants.

  11. Babies held skin-to-skin for one to two hours after birth were able to emotionally self-regulate better at one year. They were frustrated less often during play and were better able to calm themselves. Your self-regulation of emotions after birth may teach your child how to self-regulate their emotions.

  12. When left skin-to-skin your baby will follow a 9-stage behavior pattern that isn't seen in infants separated from their mother after birth. UNICF confirmed these phases.

  13. The American Association of Pediatrics recommends that healthy newborns, who do not require medical intervention, be left skin-to-skin until they have completed their first breastfeeding session.

In our classes, we talk about the importance of skin-to-skin care and how to talk to your care provider and place of birth about your wishes.

References:

Johnston C, Campbell-Yeo M, Fernandes A, Inglis D, Streiner D, Zee R. Skin-to-skin care for procedural pain in neonates. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2014, Issue 1. Art. No.: CD008435. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD008435.pub2.

Moore ER, Anderson GC, Bergman N, Dowswell T. Early skin-to-skin contact for mothers and their healthy newborn infants. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2012, Issue 5. Art. No.: CD003519. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003519.pub3.

Conde-Agudelo A, Díaz-Rossello JL. Kangaroo mother care to reduce morbidity and mortality in low birthweight infants. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2016, Issue 8. Art. No.: CD002771. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD002771.pub4.

Mueller NT, Bakacs E, Combellick J, Grigoryan Z, Dominguez-Bello MG. The infant microbiome development: mom matters. Trends in molecular medicine. 2015;21(2):109-117. doi:10.1016/j.molmed.2014.12.002.

Ludington-Hoe SM, Lewis T, Morgan K, Cong X, Anderson L, Reese S. Breast and infant temperatures with twins during shared kangaroo care. J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. 2006;35:223–231.

Matthiesen A, Ransjö-Arvidson A, Nissen E, Uvnäs-Moberg K. Postpartum maternal oxytocin release by newborns: effects of infant hand massage and sucking. Birth. 2001;28:13–19.

DeChateau PWB. Long-term effect on mother–infant behaviour of extra contact during the first hour postpartum. Acta Paediatr Scand. 1977;66:145–151.

Christensson K, Cabrera T, Christensson E, Uvnas-Moberg K, Winberg J. Separation distress call in the human neonate in the absence of maternal body contact. Acta Paediatr Scand. 1995;84:468–473.

Prescott J. Body pleasure and the origins of violence. Bull Atomic Sci. 1975:10–20.

AAP. Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics. 2012;129:e827-e841.