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Snuggling skin-to-skin benefits both you and your baby
Is there anything more soothing than a mother’s touch? After delivery, the doctors and nurses will probably encourage you to spend time snuggling skin-to-skin with your baby. To create skin-to-skin contact, you’ll hold your baby belly-down in only his or her diaper on your bare chest (with blankets and a hat on your little one for warmth). This close contact—also known as “kangaroo care”—may seem like a simple act, but it offers so many benefits for bonding, breastfeeding and more.
The many benefits of skin-to-skin contact
Skin-to-skin snuggles are beneficial for both you and your baby. That’s why it’s recommended by leading health organizations, like the World Health Organization, American Academy of Pediatrics, Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine and the Neonatal Resuscitation Program. If you’re hoping to breastfeed, it can help set you up for success from the start.
Promotes breastfeeding success
Immediate skin-to-skin during the first hour after delivery is one of the most effective ways to promote exclusive breastfeeding. This close contact provides an opportunity to nurse as soon as possible after birth, and it boosts the probability and duration of breastfeeding. Moms who engage in skin-to-skin are more likely to breastfeed at hospital discharge and afterward, as well as continue breastfeeding for a longer duration of time—an average of six weeks longer.
Stabilize your baby’s levels
Skin-to-skin has incredible health benefits for your baby. Being close to you in those first days after delivery helps your little one regulate his or her body temperature, breathing, heart rate, oxygen and blood sugar levels and sleep cycles. It also stimulates your baby’s brain to move toward your breast for feeding, encourages him or her to open their eyes to connect with you and lowers stress hormones, which allows for better absorption of nutrients. Longer-term, kangaroo care helps foster a stronger immune system.
Helps you recognize feeding cues
Positioning your baby on your chest gives you an up-close view of any feeding cues, such as rooting or sucking. This awareness is especially important when your newborn is sleepy. Quick recognition of when your baby needs to eat will promote healthy weight gain and growth.
Stimulates more milk
Picking up on feeding cues and being in close contact translates to more frequent nursing. Because breastfeeding is a supply-and-demand situation, nursing early and often will help you establish a strong milk supply. And research shows that when moms encounter breastfeeding difficulties, an hour or two of skin-to-skin each day can contribute to almost-immediate improvements.
Spending time skin-to-skin helps reduce infant crying and boost that mom-baby bond. During that cozy-close time, you’ll get to know your baby and start building your relationship. Moms who practice kangaroo care report greater confidence in caring for and feeding their little ones. In a time when so much is new and changing, those positive feelings are so crucial.
Prevents postpartum conditions
Skin-to-skin also increases oxytocin which helps regulate your hormone levels. In turn, it can reduce the risk of postpartum hemorrhage and postpartum depression. So skin-to-skin contact can help a mom’s mental and physical health.
How to promote and advocate for skin-to-skin after delivery and beyond
Skin-to-skin care is a common practice, but it’s always important to be informed and advocate for yourself and your baby. Ask your doctor about the hospital policies surrounding skin-to-skin and any limitations. You can typically perform skin-to-skin care even if you’re having a c-section, multiples, a premature birth or other special circumstances, but the timing it occurs may vary.
Communicate your wish to be skin-to-skin after delivery to your healthcare providers. It’s possible to have your baby’s Apgar testing, vitamin K shot and other post-delivery procedures done while he or she is on your chest (it can even help reduce any pain for your little one!), so speak to your care team to make sure everyone is on the same page.
Partners can perform skin-to-skin too. This is helpful if you aren’t feeling up to it after delivery or need some time to rest. It’s also a great way to promote bonding between your partner and your baby.
If you’re tired, be sure to move your baby to a safe place or give him or her to someone else. Your baby should always be watched closely during skin-to-skin.
Skin-to-skin time doesn’t have to end with your hospital discharge. Continue it at home and as your baby grows. It can provide calm and comfort as you and your baby continue building your connection.
If you’re looking for more ways to prepare for breastfeeding, get in touch with our Ashland Breast Pumps team. We can help you secure your insurance-covered breast pump and connect with an Internationally Board-Certified Lactation Consultant. Plus, as moms ourselves, we’re here to answer questions, share real-mom tips or simply offer some encouragement.