Here are the Top 10 Reasons Why to Do Skin to Skin and Its Benefits:
If you did not know about skin to skin, but are pregnant and maybe it has been mentioned by your hospital, doula or midwife and want to know more. It’s best to learn why do it. This will help keep you motivated when there is so much information flying your way and all you want to do is make oogly googly eyes with your baby after he/she is born.
1.) Keeps baby warmer
Theres a reason why skin to skin is conducted on the chest of the mother. The chest region, specifically the breasts will literally adjust their temperatures to baby’s needs.
“Maternal breast temperature can rise rapidly, then fall off as baby is warmed. As the baby starts to cool, the breasts heat up again—as much as 2 degrees C in two minutes!” (source)
2.) Regulates breathing
Babies and their moms are deeply physiologically connected. Because when babies are born their systems are immature, babies sometimes can stop breathing temporarily and/or have a slower a heart rate. So if lying skin to skin with Mom, heart beats between the two have shown to synchronize (even breath too!) and baby ultimately “learns” to have a more regular breath and heart beat with help from Mom. (source)
3.) Keeps blood sugar level higher
In a study of newborns, babies that were held for 75 to 90 minutes following the birth, blood glucose levels were significantly higher. In this same study, the findings of both temperature and blood glucose are both clinically important, and lend support to current American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations for the use of SSC in the first hour after birth (American Academy of Pediatrics 2005).
Clearly there is a relationship between improved breastfeeding and higher blood glucose. In terms of evolutionary biology, and mammalian studies, this higher value may in fact be the norm, and a lowering may reflect the autonomic nervous system evoking a separation distress response, consuming excess calories (Christensson 1995) (source)
4.) Enhances bonding
The hour after birth is often called the Golden Hour, it’s a period of which a chemical connection between Mom and baby occurs. This is when medical staff should place your newborn right on your chest (if a safe and normal birth occurred and there are no emergency medical risks currently taking priority). In the case of a ceasarean, skin to skin can still be performed during the Golden Hour, talk to your doctor for more or at least opt for Dad to perform skin to skin with baby during this time until your surgery has finished.
The main factor after birth, during the Golden Hour is the hormone oxytocin aka the love hormone at work. This hormone helps the uterus contract during labor and birth, enables milk to let down and be ejected during breastfeeding and also plays a critical role in bonding. After birth, the minutes and hours that follow, the brain releases high levels of this powerful hormone. The level of Moms oxytocin after birth can even be higher than during labor. Of all the hormones in the body, oxytocin is the hormone to give us the greatest happiness in Life!
5.) Reduces postpartum depression
According to the WHO, about 20 % of mothers in developing countries experience clinical depression, a mood disorder, after childbirth. Many women know a sibling, friend or someone in their circle that has suffered from the baby blues, which goes away in a couple of weeks (if you or someone you know is suffering, do not hesitate to reach out and get them help). But postpartum depression is not this, symptoms do not go away after a few weeks and can get worse. It is the feeling of being overly sad, hopeless, and worthless; psychotic symptoms. These numbers are increasingly higher compared to previous figures, all from high income countries. Which is very alarming! So…how are skin to skin and postpartum depression even linked?
“According to the study in the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecological, and Neonatal Nursing, skin-to-skin contact between the mother and baby may be an alternative therapy for mothers trying to avoid taking medication (for depression). The study reveals that new mothers who had six hours of skin-to-skin contact during the first week followed by at least two hours during the next month reported fewer depressive symptoms.
Saliva samples confirmed lower cortisol levels, a marker of stress, than their counterparts. For a baby, skin-to-skin contact helps fulfill the need for human contact and promotes bonding. The touching releases the hormone oxytocin in the mother, which encourages infant/mother attachment and increases the feeling of well-being and relaxation.” (source)
6.) Baby cries less
“A study in the journal Pediatrics reports that skin-to-skin contact for as little as three hours a day can reduce infant crying by 43 percent. This can lead to lower stress levels for a new mother who is otherwise unsure how to calm her crying infant.” (source)
7.) Better sleep
“Furthermore, skin-to-skin contact helps infants fall asleep more easily and also sleep for a longer period of time. This allows the new mother to get more rest and reduce stress levels.” (source) Please note, it is not recommended by most pediatricians to sleep in skin to skin with baby, in fear of baby falling or suffocation. Talk to your pediatrician, midwife or doula for more on monitoring you while in skin to skin while at the hospital. Baby should be placed in a secure position on chest to reduce falling.
8.) Better gut health and immunity
Skin-to-skin contact helps baby’s digestive system mature. The contact “stimulates the vagal nerve, causing increased growth in size of the villi in the newborn gut, which provides a larger surface area for the absorption of nutrition.” (source)
There is also “less chance of infection, because babies given kangaroo mother care become colonized with the bacteria on their mother’s own skin. This causes her milk to produce antibodies in response and makes it specifically protective against those bacteria. In other words, it strengthens their immune system. This is by far one of the main kangaroo care benefits in both poor and wealthy countries alike.” (source)
9.) Breastfeeding + Milk supply
“In a study of 21 babies after a vaginal birth, 3 researchers divided them into two groups. One group was laid skin-to-skin on mother’s body, examined briefly, then returned to skin-to-skin contact for two hours. The other group was shown to the mother, examined, and swaddled with hands free and then returned to mother. The swaddled group showed delayed feeding behaviors, suckled less competently at their first breastfeeding, and established effective breastfeeding later.” (source)
10.) Increased confidence in Moms and Dads and feeling more relaxed
For all the benefits that have been mentioned before, it is no wonder that a Mom that conducts skin to skin will be more likely to be more confident. When a Mom holds their baby in skin to skin, seeing signs of hunger or tiredness from their baby’s cues is much easier than if a baby is swaddled. Moms and Dads are able to react quicker to their baby, and attend to them faster building up confidence and experience being a parent.
We hope this introductory Blog Post on the benefits of skin to skin has sparked your interests to discuss this further with your midwife, doula or health care professional. Discuss incorporating this into your birth plan so it is known that skin to skin is your preference after birth. And its up to you to remember that skin to skin goes beyond the Golden Hour and should be practiced months after baby is born and at least a couple of hours per day to see true benefits.