Skin-to-Skin Contact with Newborns: When to Do It, And Why

Skin to skin

Okay, y’all, let’s talk about skin-to-skin.

Skin-to-skin is all the rage in the birthing community right now. In fact, it’s pretty much what all the cool parents are doing these days. And for good reason.

What is skin-to-skin?

Skin-to-skin is literally skin-to-skin – as in, baby dressed down to his or her diaper, and parent undressed from the waist up. If baby is bundled up in baby burrito and parent is wearing a hospital gown, shirt or whatever, it doesn’t count as skin-to-skin.

When should parents do skin-to-skin?

Ideally, skin-to-skin should be done right after birth, uninterrupted through the first feeding or for one to two hours. For vaginal births, this will ideally be immediately after the baby is born. For c-section births, skin-to-skin is usually done as soon as the birth parent can safely hold the infant. This is usually up to the discretion of the anesthesiologist. I would encourage to you check out the policy of the facility you will be birthing at. In the meantime, partner or support person can do skin-to-skin while mom recovers from the surgery.

Keep in mind, skin-to-skin is not just a one time labor-and-delivery prescription. All the benefits of skin-to-skin extend well beyond Birth Day. In fact, the more skin-to-skin parents do in the first three months of baby’s life, the better.

What are the benefits of skin-to-skin?

The benefits of skin-to-skin are many for mom and baby. Think of it this way – we are not like horses, we don’t give birth and see our babies running around two hours later. Our babies are born helpless, and they don’t realize they are born in the time of stroller and car seats, swings, etc. So for babies, they are expecting to be held. A lot. Skin-to-skin is where they are biologically wired to be. It is nature’s way of protecting baby.

Cool example – when baby is placed skin-to-skin with mom immediately after birth, for five minutes her breasts will increase in temperature to warm baby up to exactly the right temperature. After five minutes, the breasts stop getting warmer, analyze how the baby’s temperature is, and if baby isn’t warm enough, the breast will continue to get warmer until baby is. Moms who have twins – if both babies are skin-to-skin, and one baby is colder than the other, that breast will get warmer than the other breast to heat that baby back up. How cool is that?

Ladies, we do not appreciate our breasts enough. Our partners do, but we don’t.

Other benefits of skin-to-skin for babies:

  • Parent’s heart rate will help regulate baby’s heart rate
  • Parent’s breathing will help regulate baby’s breathing
  • Babies typically breastfeed better and more frequently (which makes sense, because you are putting them smack dab in the middle of the restaurant)
  • Babies are less stressed and cry less

What are the benefits of skin-to-skin for moms?

  • Increased milk supply (in fact, one of the best things you can do to establish a good supply)
  • Increased bonding
  • More confident as a parent (you get to know your baby very well when they are basically hanging out right in the our face a lot)

Good news for partners! You and baby receive the same benefits when you do skin-to-skin with baby, too! Well, almost all – unless you are lactating yourself, it’s not going to increase your milk supply. Sorry.

So, let’s review – skin-to-skin will help milk flow and help baby grow!

So enjoy those baby snuggles as much as possible!

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