While in their mommy’s tummy, babies are as close to their mothers as they possibly can be – getting oxygen, food, protection and warmth. Then all of a sudden, they’re thrust into the external world and they find themselves without immediate access to fulfill their needs. When you consider this fact, it really doesn’t come as a surprise that skin-to-skin care, or kangaroo care as it’s sometimes called, has quite a few benefits to offer babies. This is why mothers and babies commonly kept together for the first couple of hours after birth.
Skin-to-skin contact takes place by placing the baby naked on the mother’s bare chest. A blanket should be draped over the mother for providing warmth. If the mother can’t offer such care because of complications or labor, fathers can step in as well. Within minutes of skin-to-skin contact, you should see the baby starting to relax. Following are some of the main benefits that this process has to offer.
Induces Deeper Sleep
Skin-to-skin contact has also shown to help infants sleep for a longer period of time and sleep more easily.
Regulates Breathing, Keeps Baby Warmer and Keeps Blood Sugar Level
Skin-to-skin contact can stabilize baby’s vitals. Mothers adjust the warmth of their breast naturally in order to ensure that their infant enjoys the optimal temperature. This means that the breast temperature can rise rapidly and fall when the baby is warm enough. And as the baby begins to cool, the breasts heat up all over again. Furthermore, a baby’s system is known to be extremely immature. This means that babies sometimes stop breathing or experience slower heart rates. When you offer your babies skin-to-skin contact, they synchronize their heartbeat and their breath to yours.
Increases Bonding Between the Baby and the Parent
The first hour after a baby’s birth is often called “The Golden Hour”. This is a period when the child and the mother are perfectly primed to create a unique bond with each other. This is usually because of the presence of a hormone called oxytocin, or the love hormone, which helps the uterus contract during labor. Moreover, the scents released by the mother and the baby also contain pheromones that attract them to each other.
Better Immunity and Gut Health
Skin-to-skin contact allows babies to build their digestive systems because it stimulates a nerve responsible for growing the size of the villi found in the newborn’s gut. This offers a greater surface area for nutrition absorption. Moreover, babies who enjoy skin-to-skin contact also face a reduced chance of infection because they get acquainted with the bacteria present in their mother’s skin. This lets her milk create the necessary antibodies and protects the child from infection. Simply put, skin-to-skin contact works wonders in strengthening the baby’s immunity.
Infant Cries Less
A study that appeared in the Pediatrics Journal focused on the importance of skin-to-skin contact for reducing crying. According to this study, infants who enjoy skin-to-skin contact for about 3 hours a day cry a lot less, as much as 43% less! This means that the mother is experiences less stress because she doesn’t need to go through the ordeal of trying to calm her crying baby.
Reduced Levels of Postpartum Depression for Mom
Recent studies confirm that skin-to-skin contact can help in reducing postpartum depression in new mothers. Snuggling, kissing, smelling, holding and nursing the baby immediately after birth creates certain hormonal patterns in the mother’s body which bring about feelings of well-being and motherly love. A study that appeared in the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecological, and Neonatal Nursing showed that skin-to-skin contact could act as a type therapy for mommies trying to avoid medications.
With so many amazing benefits on offer, it is essential that you give skin to skin contact the respect it deserves. Not only does it allow your baby to grow healthier and stronger, it also lets you create an inseparable bond with your child that acts as the foundation of your relationship for decades to come.