The Value of Skin-to-Skin Contact
Skin-to-skin contact is an essential element of acclimating a newborn to the world outside the womb and its benefits continue throughout infancy. Studies prove that babies, especially preemies, who experience skin-to-skin contact during their first moments, days and weeks of life have healthier outcomes. Today we’re exploring the many benefits of skin-to-skin contact for babies.
Promotes Bonding: Physical closeness encourages immediate bonding between babies and their parents. Cuddling with the amazing tiny human being you created is one of the perks of parenthood and it is so good for everyone involved. Babies and parents alike get to know each other when they have quality skin-to-skin time. Parents learn their babies’ cries can more easily decipher which ones are for hunger, sleep, discomfort or need for affection. Moms who practice regular skin-to-skin contact have less incidence of postpartum depression and dads experience a closer bond with their babies from the start when they snuggle often. Creating a strong attachment between parents and children is a critical part of development that affects many aspects of health and wellness for the future of your child.
Regulates Temperature: A baby is used to the warm and cozy conditions of the womb. In the outside world, babies need help maintaining their body temperature. Skin-to-skin contact aids in regulating temperature so babies store energy for growth and are better able to gain weight.
Supports Breastfeeding: Babies who are held close to their mothers have easy access to breastfeeding. Their instincts kick in and help them resourcefully find their mother’s breast and source of food. Studies show that babies who are engaged in skin-to-skin latch better and are more likely to breastfeed exclusively for longer. Skin-to-skin also stimulates milk production as feeling and hearing her baby triggers a mother’s lactation hormones causing more frequent let downs.
Bolsters Immunity: There are many ways newborns are naturally protected from pathogens and skin-to-skin contact is one of them. Being held by mom allows babies to be colonized by the bacteria of their mothers and the same bacteria they were exposed to during gestation. This helps prevent many diseases, sicknesses and allergies. Along with breastfeeding, the TDAP vaccination and some fantastic hormones mothers produce prenatally, babies have a good basis for immune health.
Steadies Heart Rate and Blood Pressure: Amazingly, when babies are held closely to their mothers, their heart rates sync and blood pressure levels normalize. As the heart pumps blood throughout the body, babies are better able to cope with the new demands of sustaining their own lives.
Boosts Mental Development: Steadier heart rates and blood pressure give the brain a boost too. Oxygenated blood travels throughout the body including to the brain, which allows babies to be more alert and achieve essential mental development.
Calms Baby: Babies who engage in skin-to-skin cry less because they are comforted by their parents. They also have less of the stress hormone called cortisol and more oxytocin, a feel-good hormone that promotes happiness and bonding. Many babies experience this bliss immediately after birth when that first snuggle calms their crying.
Encourages Sleep: When babies feel less stressed and more relaxed and secure, they will have better sleep. Sleep is crucial for physical and cognitive development and makes everyone in the household happier.
Cherish skin-to-skin contact early and often with your baby to experience these incredible benefits!
Sources: Fit Pregnancy and International Breastfeeding Centre