The science behind skin-to-skin contact is mind blowing. BRAVO to modern research for discovering the many benefits of this important practice!
“Psychologists say there are five types of love languages, but to newborn babies, only one really registers: physical touch.” (Stanford Children's Health, 2015)
There are so many wonderful things that happen during the magical moments when a newborn baby is placed on the mother’s chest. First, oxytocin is released; this “love hormone” works wonders by warming up mom’s body, regulating baby’s temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure and by initiating the instinct to breastfeed. (Early initiation of breastfeeding leads to greater, long-term success in nursing). This powerful connection between a mom and her baby also increases uterine contractions, which slows mom’s bleeding. Skin-to-skin contact is the optimum bonding experience because it helps to heal mom while her tiny miracle adjusts to the new world through this first loving act.
Dr. Philip Sunshine, emeritus professor of pediatrics at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, even suggests that dad or partner be prepared to initiate this important contact if mom requires immediate medical attention. (If you are an expecting parent, talk to your doctor about your birthing plan to make this a possibility.)
This practice is so vital for the health of a newborn baby that it is also standard practice in the NICU. In many cases you can literally watch a baby’s vitals improve on the monitor as a result of skin-to-skin contact.
And that’s just the beginning! Skin-to-skin contact should be a continued practice for the first several months (if not longer!) with all primary caregivers. The adjustment from the womb to the outside world takes time and the more skin-to-skin contact in which parents can provide their baby, the easier this transition will be. Another great reason to snuggle whenever possible!
If a baby does not have a secure attachment with a loving caregiver, their brain growth is actually stunted. Lack of love, parental inconsistency or instability in the home can lead to long-term physical and mental problems, as well as greater challenges to find success and happiness into adulthood. (Winston & Chicot, 2015) That is why attachment is essential and why there must be education on this matter.
Skin-to-skin contact helps a baby develop a close attachment to their parents or primary caregiver. Attachment is a crucial first step in healthy development and proper brain growth because it provides a sense of security. Above all else, babies want to feel safe, and because they are completely dependent on their parents, they feel safest when nestled close, skin-to-skin.
There are so many ways to love a baby, from lullabies to diaper changes, but the first step in the important process of establishing a safe and loving connection is through the miraculous practice of skin-to-skin contact. Check out Bonsie Skin to Skin Babywear for the first and only baby clothing designed for the ease of skin-to-skin contact!
Give 'em some skin: Skin-to-skin contact between babies and parents. Stanford Children's Health. (2015). https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/health-topics/magazine/give-em-some-skin.
Winston, R., & Chicot, R. (2016, February 24). The importance of early bonding on the long-term mental health and resilience of children. London journal of primary care. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5330336/.