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4 Ways Skin-to-Skin Contact Improves Infant Gut Health

The extensive benefits of skin-to-skin contact are mind blowing and truly life-changing. Skin-to-skin contact has both short term and long term advantages, all of which are a testament to the essential attachment between parents and their babies. 

A mom kisses her baby's belly after opening the front of Bonsie's Mocha Twist Footie
A mom kisses her baby's belly after opening the front of Bonsie's Mocha Twist Footie

Bonsie has shared in-depth research, expert opinions, and parent perspectives on many of the benefits of skin-to-skin contact, but here’s one you might not know about: GUT HEALTH. That’s right! Research supports that skin-to-skin contact can actually improve babies’ gut health. 

Is there anything skin-to-skin contact can’t do?

An important study examined the connection between gut health and daily skin-to-skin contact. 116 full-term babies and their mothers participated in this five week study by practicing skin-to-skin contact for one hour a day while the control group practiced care-as-usual. The research concluded that gut health can be improved by regularly practicing skin-to-skin contact primarily through four avenues: 

  • Skin-to-skin contact improves breastfeeding success and duration. 

  • Skin-to-skin contact can affect moms’ breast milk microbiome. 

  • Skin-to-skin contact reduces stress for baby and mom, and there is a direct link between stress and gut health.

  • Moms’ skin provides good bacteria for her baby, which also impacts gut health.

Why is this important? The human gut has various types of bacteria living in it. Bacteria helps break down food, so our bodies can use the nutrients and energy, they keep our intestines healthy, and our immune system working. Plus, they can even communicate to our brains through a connection between the gut and the brain. The connection between gut health and our brain also impacts our mood, our behavior, our ability to think, and how we utilize our senses, to name a few. Gut health is vital for a healthy body, especially for newborn babies, and its development early in life is influenced by environmental factors. (Such as frequency of skin-to-skin contact, breast milk, and stress.) The positive, lasting effects of skin-to-skin contact is a reflection of how interconnected our bodily systems are. 

The study states that “starting from birth, the mother is the infant’s main source of microbial gut colonization via vaginal delivery, breastfeeding, and frequent close contact. This transmission of bacteria will remain detectable even at older ages.”

Let’s break down the connection between gut health and skin-to-skin contact. 

Breastfeeding Success

Research supports that regular skin-to-skin contact improves breastfeeding success for many reasons. Frequent closeness between baby and mom promotes greater responsiveness from mom, making it easier to learn her baby’s hunger cues, and promotes bonding through the release of oxytocin. The combination of oxytocin release, maternal scent, and skin warmth stimulates the baby's desire to nurse, resulting in more frequent feedings and increased milk production.


The study concludes that “breastfeeding shapes the infant gut microbiome. The extension of exclusive and continued breastfeeding duration caused by a daily hour of SSC could therefore influence the infant gut microbiome,”  (Eckerman, 2024).

Mom breastfeeding her newborn in Bonsie's Fig Footie
Mom breastfeeding her newborn in Bonsie's Fig Footie

Breastmilk Composition

Breastfeeding, skin-to-skin contact, and maternal stress all affect and change the bacteria present in breast milk. Research indicates that “a daily hour of SSC was associated with fewer maternal anxiety and fatigue symptoms. Previous studies have indicated a link between maternal postnatal distress (including anxiety) and breast milk microbiota, which in turn could influence the gut microbiome of breastfed infants,”  (Eckerman, 2024).

Think about it this way: stress significantly affects the physical and mental health of everyone, so it makes sense that stress can affect the composition of breast milk. Because regular skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding can reduce maternal stress, fatigue, depression, and anxiety, it in turn impacts the bacteria in breast milk, which influences the collection of bacteria in the stomach of babies who are breastfed. Pretty cool, huh? 

Mom and baby laying on bed playing
A mom lays with baby in Bonsie' Milk Footie

Stress Reduction 

Skin-to-skin contact not only lowers stress levels in moms, but also in their babies. Research shows that cortisol levels, (the stress hormone) is measurably lower after just 20 minutes of skin-to-skin contact. This is because babies feel safest when snuggled closely to their mom, dad, or primary caregiver. This feeling of well-being stretches all the way to babies’ stomach and affects their gut health. So while you’re practicing skin-to-skin contact with your little one, both of your cortisol levels are dropping, establishing an environment of peace and relaxation.

Again, stress has a powerful effect on health, and for babies, the least stressful place to be is snuggled up to their mom or dad, and a “de-stressing practice such as SSC could potentially alter the colonization of the gut,” (Eckerman, 2024).

Dad laying with baby on bed skin to skin in Bonsie's Mocha Footie
A dad practices skin to skin with baby in Bonsie's Mocha Footie

Skin colonization 

“Lastly, SSC could also provide an additional opportunity for the exchange of microbes between the mother and child,” (Eckerman, 2024). The bacteria present on your skin transfers to your baby’s skin during skin-to-skin contact, colonizing your baby’s skin. This is a good thing! This friendly bacteria creates a protective shield on the skin that acts as a barrier to infection, adding an important layer of defense to your baby’s immune system. Once the friendly bacteria is transferred to your baby’s skin, some will end up in your baby’s mouth and then their gastrointestinal tract, colonizing their gut. This colonization process is crucial for an infant's gut health because a diverse and balanced microbiome is associated with many benefits, such as a stronger immune system, improved digestion, and added protection against certain diseases. 

This first-of-its-kind study further demonstrates the power of connection and physical touch. It’s also evidence that breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding parents can help their babies thrive just by holding them close, skin-to-skin, and by nurturing a loving relationship.

Part of our mission at Bonsie is to provide you with important information and empower you with knowledge. We also know that practicing skin-to-skin contact by fully undressing your baby isn’t always possible or convenient, so we created a solution. Designed by a mom and therapist, (who has practiced countless hours of skin-to-skin contact with her babies) Bonsies make it simple to practice skin-to-skin contact anytime, anywhere. Created to support babies’ health and parental attachment, Bonsie Skin to Skin Babywear encourages regular skin-to-skin contact because it can truly improve the wellbeing of you and your baby. 

Not sure how to practice skin-to-skin contact? It’s easy! Just undress your baby down to their diaper OR open up their Bonsie to show their chest and belly. Next, lay your baby vertically against your bare chest, chest to chest. Then, get comfortable! In this position, it is likely your baby will want to eat or sleep, or both! While you’re  bonding and relaxing, your bodies are maximizing this time to help you both thrive. Check out our article titled, "How to Correctly Practice Skin-to-Skin Contact," for more information on the basics of skin-to-skin contact. 


Eckermann, H. A., Meijer, J., Cooijmans, K., Lahti, L., & de Weerth, C. (2024). Daily skin-to-skin contact alters microbiota development in healthy full-term infants. Gut Microbes, 16(1). 

Levengood, S. BSN, RNC-NIC. (2033). Skin-to-Skin Contact: Good for Babies and Parents. Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare

Read & Save! Use code GUTHEALTH to save 20% until May 31st.

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