Skin on skin contact is when mother and babies are put together with their skin touching, without clothes or blankets between them. This physical touch it is specially important after birth: contact between the mother and baby since the first second after birth. This early “skin on skin”contact should encourage, even after a c- section, unless medical recommendation.
And it is not only for your baby: feeling for the first time your daughter or son can be one of the most amazing experiences in your life. You may feel overwhelming feelings of love and protectiveness flooding your whole body.
Of course, not all mums feel this straight away. You may be exhausted from a long labour. If that’s the case, holding your baby skin-to-skin will help to nourish loving feelings. Touching and stroking your baby stimulates the release of your body’s natural feel-good chemical, oxytocin.
Skin-to-skin contact takes your baby through a natural pattern of behaviour that midwives and doctors look for in the first hour of life. It starts with that well-known sound of a baby’s first cry. When placed skin-to-skin on her mum’s chest, a newborn baby will then typically follow these stages:
- relaxing and going still while listening to your heartbeat
- opening her eyes and looking at you for the first time
- moving her hands and mouth
- crawling towards your breast
- exploring your breast
- suckling for the first time
Keep cuddling skin-to-skin after you leave the hospital. Your baby will stay warm and comfortable on your chest, and the benefits for bonding, soothing, and breastfeeding will likely continue. If your baby is sleepy, skin-to-skin can help keep your baby interested in nursing. Babies are comforted by skin to skin during procedures. Skin-to-skin may enhance brain development. Fathers and mothers who hold babies skin to skin are thought to have increased confidence and are more relaxed.
What about skin to skin and dads?
This practice is highly recommended for dads. “Paternal skin-to-skin contact has been shown to be safe and effective for temperature regulation and for cardiorespiratory stabilization.” Babies can also benefit from skin-to-skin with adoptive parents, grandparents, siblings and even doctors when necessary.
Skin-to-skin may help if you and your baby are having trouble with breastfeeding, and make it easier for you both. Your baby will instinctively seek out your breasts, and it’s all the easier if she has ready access. She may need to practise as much as you do to get used to breastfeeding.