Our goal at Bonsie is to educate our readers about all the incredible benefits of skin-to-skin contact while simplifying this important practice.
So, why is skin-to-skin contact so important and what is the correct way to do it?
The position of skin-to-skin contact, also known as Kangaroo Care, makes all the difference in providing medical benefits for your baby.
Skin-to-skin contact is a crucial step in the UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative. Babies are no longer whisked away to be bathed and swaddled, then passed around between family members. Instead, as long as there are no medical emergencies, doctors place babies on their mothers’ bare chest immediately after birth. Babies should remain in this position for at least an hour to initiate the breast crawl, the first feeding, and other instinctual and bonding behaviors.
This special time is called "The Golden Hour." Skin-to-skin contact and the familiar scent and sound of mom comforts babies after labor as they adjust to their new surroundings. It also improves breastfeeding success while regulating temperature, blood sugar, breathing patterns, and heart rate. Immediate and continued skin-to-skin contact is one of the most effective and simple ways to support better physical, mental, and emotional health outcomes. Moms benefit from skin-to-skin contact as well because it slows postpartum bleeding, increases milk supply, and reduces the likelihood of postpartum depression.
The Baby Friendly Initiative also instructs that babies, if possible, should remain close to their mom or primary caregiver for the duration of their hospital stay. In fact, many of the procedures done, such as the bilirubin test, can be performed while your baby is held skin-to-skin because it eases discomfort.
Once out of the hospital, skin-to-skin contact remains an important part of your daily routine with your baby. Practice skin-to-skin contact if your baby is fussy, sick, after a bath, or anytime your baby needs you close. For optimal sleep results, hold your baby in this position for an hour or longer, enough time for a full sleep cycle. If you regularly practice skin-to-skin contact you’ll notice that your baby cries less, sleeps better, and you both feel more relaxed (Allen, 2012).
We asked Summer Friedmann, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, Founder of Done Naturally, and a member of our Expert Panel, about the correct way to practice skin-to-skin contact. Summer supports and encourages thousands of moms every day on her YouTube channel and Facebook group.
“When a baby is placed upright between the mother’s breasts, chest to chest, more surface area is reached. The baby should be naked or wearing only a diaper with their head under the mother’s chin. A baby placed in the classic cradle hold or football position will have less surface area in contact with the mother. This reduces the ability for the mother’s body to regulate baby’s blood sugars and stabilize their body temperature.”
If it is not possible or convenient for your baby to be naked, Bonsie's babywear is specifically designed for skin-to-skin contact without the hassle of undressing your baby. Simply open up the front of the Bonsie and hold your baby vertically, bare chest to bare chest. This position also allows for mom to use her heat to regulate her baby’s temperature.
“It also would make sense that the mother’s trunk remains warmer than her extremities, improving the benefits of SSC. In the upright position, between the breasts, we also can wrap mother and baby together with a warmed blanket, whereas in the other positions this would not be safe.”
In addition to blood sugar and temperature regulation, skin-to-skin contact improves breastfeeding success by releasing oxytocin and stimulating your baby's desire to nurse.
“Manual hand expression of colostrum can easily be done with the baby between the breasts, which the cradle position would prevent. Upright positioning of the baby also taps into their instincts for them to start the breast crawl for initial latching.”
If you did not get to hold your baby immediately after birth, remember that ANY and ALL the moments you practice skin-to-skin contact are beneficial. If this is not yet a part of your daily routine with your baby, what are you waiting for? Start today.
Lastly, the next time you’re settled and holding your baby skin-to-skin, take a deep, relaxing breath as you smell that sweet, newborn smell. Pay close attention to how you feel and how your baby feels. Do you notice a wave of positive, warm emotions flooding through you? That’s oxytocin, also known as the love hormone, and it's working its magic to form a healthy, lifelong bond between you and your little one.
Allen KA. Promoting and protecting infant sleep. Adv Neonatal Care. 2012 Oct;12(5):288-91. doi: 10.1097/ANC.0b013e3182653899. PMID: 22964605; PMCID: PMC3439810.
Lori Feldman-Winter, Jay P. Goldsmith, COMMITTEE ON FETUS AND NEWBORN, TASK FORCE ON SUDDEN INFANT DEATH SYNDROME; Safe Sleep and Skin-to-Skin Care in the Neonatal Period for Healthy Term Newborns. Pediatrics 2016; e20161889. 10.1542/peds.2016-1889
The Baby Friendly Initiative. UNICEF.