Skin To Skin Contact - Why It's Important
As a NICU nurse, we were all about skin to skin contact for our babes in the NICU. For premies, the benefits are amazing and produce real, tangible results for how those babies grow and heal. For newborns, the results are just as amazing and important.
As a mama of two babies, I now realize that it's not always that easy to make time for skin to skin. I don't always prioritize it, or slow down enough to get those skin to skin snuggles. But I'm trying to fit it into our routine now that Maya is three months, and I know how important it is for this short time in their little lives.
In this post I'm going to talk about the benefits of skin to skin for babies, mamas, and fathers/partners. I'm also going to talk about when I fit it in, and my experience with it.
Benefits of Skin to Skin Contact for Babies
The benefits of skin to skin are endless for babies and mamas. Skin to skin helps babies by...
Regulating body temperature to what baby needs
Regulating heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, and blood sugar
Calms baby's nervous system
Stimulates digestion, and helps with interest in feeding
Calms baby prior to feeding
Decreases crying time throughout the entire first YEAR of baby's life
Boosts immune system - mama's skin colonizes baby's skin with good bacteria to fight off infection, and mama's skin absorbs information about what antibodies to produce in their breastmilk to protect baby based on what bacteria are on baby's skin (I think this is super cool)
Promotes bonding and attachment - the benefits continue throughout the first year and beyond. Babies have a sensory experience that calms them, and they become attached to mama's smell, touch, and sound of mom's heartbeat.
Benefits of Skin to Skin Contact For Mothers
Calms and soothes mama's nervous system
Promotes hormone regulation by stimulating the production and release of oxytocin
Stimulates breastmilk production and let-down reflex, driven by oxytocin
Helps with breastfeeding, improves baby's ability to latch, and encourages baby-led and cue-based feeding
Promotes healing postpartum, lowers stress hormones, helps to regulate hormones that get out of whack during the postpartum period
Helps with bonding and attachment of baby by experiencing the scent, touch, and sound of your baby
Facilitates communication between mother and baby
Gives mama a break (threw this one in here just for fun - have you ever been in the scenario where you're like "sorry, can you get that for me? I'm holding the baby!" I mean who can argue with that...)
Benefits of Skin to Skin Contact for Fathers and/or Caregivers/Support Partners
Calms nervous system of both father/partner and baby
Promotes bonding and attachment with baby
Studies show it can actually increase cortisol in fathers which stimulates bonding, attachment, feelings of protectiveness and involvement in care
Gets fathers/partners involved in care and helps with communication between fathers and baby
My Favorite Times to do Skin to Skin
I realized pretty quickly with my first baby that even though I knew the benefits of skin to skin were so important, I struggled to make time for it or fit it into our routines. The best way to incorporate skin to skin with your baby is to make it a part of a routine. For me, I find it's easiest to do with our bath/bedtime routine (I don't bathe my babies every night so it does not happen every night, which is totally fine!). I like to do it after bath, lotion/massage, before, during, and sometimes after the bedtime feeding. If it was a bath night, I would just take a little extra time and give them extra snuggles with the feeding before I wrapped them up and laid them in the bassinet. You can totally do skin to skin while bottle feeding too! If you hold your baby in a football/elevated side-lying position while bottle feeding, they can still be almost tummy-to-tummy with you to get the same effect.
I also do skin-to-skin with my babies anytime they are sick, stressed, or have just received vaccines. It's so good for their immune systems, and decreases all of our stress levels. It's just a great way to calm both me and my baby when we really need it, so it's a really good tool to have in our mama toolbox.
I often don't like things that require me to slow down or sit still, but for the health and wellness of my babies I would do anything. And when I actually do it, I LOVE holding my babies skin to skin. It's the sweetest time and will be gone in a flash, and someday I know I will be wishing I could wrap up my babies again and rock them while they slept against my chest. I really believe that in heaven I will be rocking and snuggling with my babies...
Hope this helps mamas!