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Why we advocate skin-to-skin contact

26 September 2018 Blog
Maternity
You may have heard of the terms ‘skin-to-skin’ or ‘kangaroo care’ but what does this mean and what benefit does it provide?

What is skin-to-skin care?

Skin-to-skin care is as simple as mum or dad -or any other carer - stripping baby down to the nappy and placing them onto their bare chest for a cuddle.

You can wrap a nice blanket over both of you for comfort, as long as baby’s tummy remains in direct contact with your chest. It’s that easy.

What are the benefits of skin-to-skin care?

 There are many benefits to practising skin-to-skin contact for both baby and parents.

It helps regulate baby’s breathing and temperature after birth

After nine months in mum’s warm womb, newborns can struggle to regulate their temperature.

Skin-to-skin contact straight after birth, when appropriate, provides warmth and helps regulate baby’s heart rate and respirations.

Likewise, if your baby develops a cold or virus, skin-to-skin contact will help to regulate their temperature and calm them.

It is also great for providing comfort when they are teething, tired or unsettled.

Pain relief

Just ten minutes of skin-to-skin contact with a loved one helps counteract the stress hormone cortisol while promoting the hormone oxytocin.

Skin-to-skin contact helps keep baby calm when having tests performed such as the heel prick tests, blood sugar checks and vaccinations.

It helps them to feel safe and secure.

Bonding

Research shows the interactions you have with your baby from infancy play a big part in defining your relationship right up to adulthood.

Skin-to-skin contact with both parents helps your baby form a secure attachment to you both for the rest of their life.

It boosts mental development

Studies have shown that premature babies who spent time in a neonatal unit and were able to have regular skin-to-skin time with parents performed better in school and in cognitive tests, compared to those who were nursed solely in an incubator.

This is because it helps regulate their breathing and oxygenation, enabling babies to sleep more soundly which, in turn, promotes brain development.

It can make breastfeeding easier

Newborns have a heightened sense of smell and skin-to-skin time on mum’s chest helps baby seek out the nipple and establish breastfeeding.

It assists the release of hormones which can help with milk supply and promotes weight gain for baby as they are not using extra energy to keep warm while nestled on mum’s chest feeding.

It can reduce the risk of postnatal depression

Skin-to-skin care helps block the rush of adrenaline and stress hormones released by mum during childbirth and instead promotes oxytocin production (the love hormone) which aids attachment, alleviates stress and promotes restful sleep – which all helps to reduce the risk of postnatal depression.

As you can see, there many reasons you can enjoy snuggling with your little one!

Charlotte Dewar - Midwife

Charlotte Dewar is a registered midwife who joined the team of midwives at St John of God Mt Lawley Hospital when she moved to Perth from Ireland. She is involved in the hospital’s parent education program where she hosts antenatal classes and is currently studying to become a certified lactation consultant.