Skin-to-skin contact increased in popularity when it was discovered how many lives were saved because of it. Originally, this practice was used for premature babies who were underweight and needed help regulating their body temperature. Now it is encouraged for all newborn babies due to the life saving benefits that it provides.
The benefits of skin-to-skin contact were first recorded in the 1970s in Bogota, Colombia when a hospital ran out of incubators for premature babies. To replace the incubators, two pediatricians began asking mothers to hold their baby, naked chest to naked chest, as often as possible.(Johnson, 2021) In this position, the baby feels the mother’s calming breathing rhythm which then calms and regulates the baby’s own breathing pattern. The baby is also soothed by the sound of the mother’s heartbeat and warmed by her body heat, which is crucial for premature babies who are at high risk for hypothermia. The doctors quickly discovered that the babies who practiced skin-to-skin contact, or Kangaroo Care, thrived much more than the babies in the incubators. At the time, the death rate for premature babies was 70%, but after the introduction of skin-to-skin contact, this statistic began to improve. (Kangaroo Care, 2020)
The life saving results of skin-to-skin contact gained international attention and is now encouraged almost everywhere for premature and healthy babies.
Not only has skin-to-skin contact proven to lower mortality rates, it also reduces illnesses and relieves pressure on hospitals, communities, and villages with a shortage of resources.
14.5 million babies are born prematurely each year, and complications due to premature birth is the leading cause of death for children under five. 80% of these deaths are found in low and middle income countries where education and life-saving equipment is most needed. (Johnson, 2021) However, the good news is that education on skin-to-skin contact is spreading and lives are being saved because of it. A current study in Gambia shows the mortality rate of premature infants has been reduced approximately 36-51% as a result of skin-to-skin contact and the study has shown tremendous results for babies who are unwell in any way.
One reason skin-to-skin contact is so effective is because it encourages the baby to breastfeed more while also improving the mother’s milk supply, which leads to greater weight gain and a lower risk of infection. It also improves bonding, brain development and regulates the baby’s heart rate, temperature, and oxygen levels.
In recent years, more hospitals across the world have implemented skin-to-skin contact for all babies immediately after birth, not just premature babies.
No matter the age or size of a baby, it takes time for newborns to adjust to their new surroundings, and skin-to-skin contact eases this transition and creates a peaceful and loving introduction to the world.
Now that most hospitals and doctors promote skin-to-skin contact, the next step is to provide greater education about the continuous benefits of this practice. Many parents know to practice skin-to-skin contact at the hospital because it's something their doctors and nurses encourage. However, once they get home they don’t continue this practice because they don’t realize they should. Mom, dad, grandparents and all caregivers are encouraged to make this bonding experience a part of their daily routine.
At Bonsie Skin to Skin Babywear, we will continue supporting parents and educating them about the many benefits of skin-to-skin contact. Our goal is for all babies to have the best chance at a healthy and loving start in life and we believe this begins with the simplest form of love: physical touch.
New to skin-to-skin contact?
All you have to do is hold your baby on your chest in an upright position, snuggled up, bare chest to bare chest. (If you have Bonsie Babywear, then all you have to do is open the front of their outfit before placing them on your chest.) You can then cover up your baby’s back with a blanket, relax and begin reaping the many benefits of skin-to-skin contact for both you and your baby.
Johnson, A. (2021, February 11). The Life-Saving Benefits of Kangaroo Care. Parenting. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20210211-kangaroo-care-the-benefits-of-skin-to-skin-contact.
Kangaroo Care: What it is, Benefits & How to do it. Cleveland Clinic. (2020, June 29). Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/12578-kangaroo-care.