Most new parents know that it’s important to practice skin-to-skin contact, or kangaroo care, with their newborn baby.
But what about older babies? Does a three-month-old baby still benefit from skin-to-skin contact? Or a nine-month-old?
The benefits of skin-to-skin contact continue well beyond the first few months and through infancy.
There is no specific age when skin-to-skin should stop. It provides powerful benefits for your baby throughout her first year. (Breastmilk counts, 2023).
Skin-to-skin contact releases oxytocin, the love hormone, while lowering cortisol levels, the stress hormone. This means that while you practice skin-to-skin contact with your baby, whether she is one day old or 12 months old, you will both feel more relaxed and connected. This simple and healing practice is one of the best ways to improve your baby’s physical and emotional development. (UNICEF)
Here are TEN reasons to practice skin-to-skin contact with your baby or toddler:
She is sleepy and needs a good contact nap
She is sick or not feeling well
She is teething
You’ve been apart all day and you want to reconnect
He is fussy
He is ready to breastfeed
You or your baby is feeling stressed
Your milk supply is down
He is constipated/has GI discomfort
He has colic
Remember, most of these benefits also apply if dad or any caregiver practices skin-to-skin contact.
We asked Dr. Jairrah Godsil, Doctor of Occupational Therapy, Certified Breastfeeding Specialist, mother of two, and member of our Expert Panel about the benefits of skin-to-skin contact for older babies.
Here is what Dr. Godsil said:
“Have you ever had a day when your baby keeps crying and you have tried everything to calm them down? Sometimes your baby needs that extra comfort to help them settle down, feel safe, or overcome whatever they are going through. It’s really never too late to comfort your child from skin-to-skin. That might just be the thing they need. The extra hugs, snuggles, warmth, and comfort can help their bodies regulate.
Skin-to-skin continues to enhance bonding and promote breastfeeding. Additionally, skin-to-skin can help your baby relax, breastfeed longer, and continue to promote your milk supply.
“Older babies tend to breastfeed less, but can also want to breastfeed more at any time due to needing extra comfort, illness, or other reasons. So, skin-to-skin is very important to help encourage breastfeeding again, especially if there was a dip in your milk supply.
“On rainy days, (or any day!) skin-to-skin care is the perfect remedy. Maybe a little rocking and singing with your arms wrapped around your little one. Honestly, older babies or toddlers need skin-to-skin contact to feel regulated. They will feel the extra love and comfort, and that everything is fine.”