Infants are born “hardwired” with strong needs to be nurtured and to remain physically close to the primary caregiver, usually the mother, during the first few years of life. This is important for the child’s emotional, physical, and neurological development.
“Skin-to-skin care” means your naked baby is placed face down, directly on your bare chest immediately after birth. All healthy babies should remain skin-to-skin for at least an hour or until after the first feeding at the breast. Your body heat will keep your baby warm, and both of you should be covered with a warm blanket.
Skin-to-skin infant care:
- Satisfies baby’s natural craving to be close to you
- Steadies baby’s temperature, breathing, heart rate and blood sugar
- Calms baby and reduces crying
- Reduces stress in mom and baby
- Encourages bonding between mom and baby
- Promotes better breastfeeding
- Allows mom to learn baby’s cues for feeding
- Helps mom recover after childbirth.
Your baby smells you, hears you, feels you, knows you from others, stays warm and is loved and comforted by you. During the first hour after birth your baby is usually alert and he or she may be eager to suckle. This position is ideal for breastfeeding and reassuring to a child who is feeling unwell.
Skin-to-skin care increases a mother’s oxytocin levels, which helps to prevent postpartum hemorrhage. Oxytocin, often called the “love hormone”, also affects mom’s brain chemistry, resulting in more “mothering” behaviors and confidence. Skin-to-skin care is a way for mom to enjoy quiet, unrushed time with a new baby.
Skin-to-skin infant care is not only for the baby born at term and in good health but also for low birth weight and pre-term babies. Premature babies benefit from continuous contact called Kangaroo Care, which involves almost constant skin-to-skin holding. Carrying, or babywearing using a soft carrier, gives a baby physical contact, comfort, security, stimulation and movement.
Fathers can also provide skin-to-skin care. Older babies and children love skin-to-skin contact, especially when they are fussy, colicky, not feeling well, or tired.