• 18 Nov - 24 Nov, 2023
  • Mag The Weekly

Skin-to-skin contact is usually referred to the practice where a new born baby is dried and laid directly on the mother's bare chest right after birth. Both of them are covered in a warm blanket and left for at least an hour, or until after the first feed. There are also numerous benefits of this skin-to-skin contact of the newborn baby with their dad. What’s more, these benefits exist for both the child as well as the parent. If you have not tried it before, read on to know the numerous benefits you and your baby can get from practicing skin to skin contact. All these benefits have been deduced from several studies carried out by experts.

Skin to skin works great right after baby's birth
When the baby is in the womb, the fetuses’ vitals are regulated by the mother’s body. However, after birth, the baby undergoes the transition of breathing for the first time out in the air, and managing their own heart rate and temperature. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends skin to skin occur between mom and baby as soon after birth when the mom is awake and stable. They say it should be at least an hour long and all the urgent procedures and tests should be done in this position only. Any procedures that require separating the mom and the baby should be delayed until an hour of skin to skin, and after the first breastfeed has taken place.

A randomised controlled trial of 100 babies found that those who did skin-to-skin immediately after birth were eight times less likely to develop hypothermia than infants who were cleaned and clothed in a warming area. Hypothermia is a medical emergency in which the body loses heat faster than it can produce heat, causing a dangerously low body temperature.

Stabilises baby's body temperature
Skin-to-skin helps babies to stabilise their body temperature. Immediately after birth, the baby’s body temperature drops an average of 2 to 4 degrees Celsius as they are exposed to air for the first time, usually in a cold environment like a delivery room. Contact with mom’s chest can help to keep the baby warm.

Increases chances of successful breastfeeding
According to a literature review of 13 studies on the subject, skin to skin is linked with higher breastfeeding rates for up to four months after the baby’s birth. As per studies, new moms who practiced skin-to-skin soon after baby’s birth were able to breastfeed for almost six weeks longer than those who didn’t. Researchers believe skin to skin heighten’s baby’s sense of smell. So when it is time for breastfeeding, the familiar smell of mom’s nipple prompts the infants to seek it out which helps in establishing more regular feeding routines.

Increases father-child attachment
A 2017 randomised controlled trial found that dads who did skin-to-skin for at least 15 minutes on the day of their baby’s birth and followed it for the next three days, had stronger attachments to their babies, compared to fathers who held their babies while clothed. Holding their infants skin to skin also helps dads to understand their baby’s needs. The release of oxytocin (love hormone) associated with skin to skin also helps the parent to relax and reduce their stress levels. This further promotes bonding with the baby.

Calmer baby, lesser crying
Babies who are snuggled against a parent’s chest also tend to be calmer. A 30 infant randomised controlled trial found that when babies were held skin-to-skin soon after birth, in the first 90 minutes of their life, only 14% of them spent more than one-minute crying.

In comparison, when babies were cared for in cots, 93% of them cried for more than a minute.

According to the researchers, restoring proximity to the mother reduces the baby’s stress from separation, which could be the reason behind them crying.