Updated: Nov 15
Doctor Wendy Hunter is a pediatrician, mother of two, and former emergency pediatric doctor. She shares her first-hand experiences from the clinic and as a parent on her blog and podcast, The Pediatrician Next Door.
Bonsie joined in conversation with Doctor Hunter about her personal experience having a premature baby and the positive impact of skin-to-skin contact.
“My daughter was born 6 weeks early and was just over 4 pounds. It was terrifying at first. She was so small and seemed so fragile.”
Doctor Hunter's daughter spent 11 days in the NICU and needed phototherapy for jaundice.
“It was so hard to spend time with her when I was recovering from an emergency C-section and was not feeling well myself. She had to be on the lights for jaundice as much as possible and she had an IV.”
Despite these challenges, skin-to-skin contact was a priority, and the NICU nurses helped facilitate this important time.
“The NICU nurses were wonderful and made sure I held her skin-to-skin, even though I had no idea what I was doing! I attribute us being successful with breastfeeding to those wonderful NICU nurses. From my work experience, I appreciate that they are the most ferocious humans I know! They fight to protect their little NICU babies with the conviction of a tiger mom. But they made sure I spent some quality time with my newborn skin-to-skin despite the challenges.”
After her daughter was released from the NICU, she and her mom were inseparable.
“I carried her everywhere in a carrier against my chest and even breastfed with her in the carrier. I was busy and needed my arms free, and she needed to be close to me. I even took her to medical school!”
Doctor Hunter shared her expertise on the many benefits of skin-to-skin contact.
“Skin-to-skin contact is important for newborns for so many reasons! It promotes infant physiologic stability - meaning it helps stabilize their heart rate, breathing rate and other body processes. Skin-to-skin also helps keep them warm, helps organize infant sleep, reduces stress and pain, and helps with infant’s weight gain. Skin-to-skin contact supports breastfeeding as it helps to start breast milk production and maintains it for longer.”
Dads, partners, adoptive parents, and all caregivers should prioritize skin-to-skin contact with their babies as well.
“It’s always wonderful to see fathers hold their babies skin-to-skin to help form that parental bond. And can also be wonderful for parents who did not give birth, like in the case of adoption or same-sex couples. Skin-to-skin allows for early bonding. One particular family that I take care of adopted a drug-addicted infant and skin-to-skin was critical for that baby’s transition.”
Skin-to-skin contact is especially crucial for premature babies or babies recovering in the NICU.
“Skin-to-skin is particularly important for premature infants to help the mother produce breast milk and it has been found to have pain-relieving effects on premature infants."
"A study showed that skin-to-skin contact between preemies and their moms during procedures like blood draws reduced their pain responses.”
In addition to helping babies thrive, skin-to-skin contact has tremendous benefits for moms as well.
“Skin-to-skin contact also has positive effects on the mother. It promotes bonding between the mother and newborn, which is crucial for the mother's emotional connection and attachment. And it also has a calming effect on the mother, reducing her stress levels. Research has even shown that skin-to-skin immediately after birth helps to deliver the placenta.”
For more advice, encouragement, and relatable content from Doctor Hunter, check out her podcast and Instagram page.
“I know how hard it is to be a parent; you feel alternating anxiety, guilt and fear, with many moments of joy in between. That’s what I share on my podcast The Pediatrician Next Door. I reassure parents about every topic that comes up when raising kids based on my experience as a former pediatric ER doctor, current primary care pediatrician and mom. And I’ll make you laugh!”