Hey Mama! If you’re “expecting”, you’ve likely heard the term skin-to-skin thrown around in different circles. While it’s a pretty straightforward idea, there are many reasons that incorporating skin-to-skin time with your newborn is so beneficial. But what you may not know is that these benefits go beyond the delivery room! Let’s break down the practice of skin-to-skin and chat about why it’s such a special part of bonding with baby.
Why I am here and who I am:
Hey mama, I am Trish— AKA Labor Nurse Mama. I am a labor and delivery nurse with over 15 years of high-risk OB experience. I am also a mama to 7 kids and have given birth to 6. This means I am quite familiar with the postpartum period and how to navigate it. I am the online birth class educator for Calm Labor Confident Birth and The VBAC Lab birth classes and the mama expert inside our Calm Mama Society a pregnancy & postpartum membership community! I am passionate about your birth and motherhood journey! You can find me over on IG teaching over 230k mamas daily. I am passionate about your birth and motherhood journey!
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First things first, what do we mean when we say “skin-to-skin” time?
Typically, the term is used in reference to the time right after delivery. AKA The precious “Golden Hour.”
In this hour or so after birth, baby is SUPER alert and their senses are completely tuned into their new world. This why having baby’s skin right up against your skin is so beneficial; your baby feels secure and safe through your sensation of touch!
When you think about it, it seems so simple, doesn’t it?
Better yet, even the World Health Organization, American Academy of Pediatrics, Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine and the Neonatal Resuscitation Program have all come to agree that skin-to-skin time is a key in providing so many benefits to both baby and Mama!
Fortunately, many hospitals are in the loop with the newest research regarding skin-to-skin time (YAY!), but in others it’s still not standard care yet. But don’t be discouraged, Mama! It’s absolutely something you can make happen at your birth with a little pre-planning! (Need tips on how to write out your wishes for labor? Snag the free Labor Nurse Mama birth plan template here!)
Aside from sensory input, are there other benefits of skin-to-skin? YES! So glad you asked 😉
A few benefits of skin-to-skin time for baby are…
- Thermoregulation/Better body temperature maintenance
- More stable heartbeat and breathing
- Cries less often
- More successful breastfeeding after birth
Let’s not forget Mama! Skin-to-skin time benefits you by…
- More positive breastfeeding experience
- Improved breastmilk production
- Possible to have less postpartum bleeding
- Cultivating a bond
Preserve the Golden Hour for uninterrupted skin-to-skin by having your care provider place baby on your chest immediately after birth!
“What if I end up having a c-section?”
“Will I miss out on the benefits of skin-to-skin?”
Mama, you can still reap the benefits of this golden hour!
Hospitals with the “Baby Friendly” designation make skin-to-skin time a priority, even for c-section Mamas, saying this practice can begin before you even leave the OR!
If you are planning on having a c-section, or if that’s where your birth story takes you, the truth is that most Mamas are alert and responsive enough to carry out skin-to-skin if a spinal or epidural is used.
One study even showed that women who experienced skin-to-skin during a c-section went on to describe the experience as meaningful and would welcome the opportunity to do so again, if given the opportunity! (Phillips, 2013)
The Healing Power of Touch
Mama, have you ever heard the term “kangaroo care”?
It’s another phrase that refers to having baby snuggled up on your chest skin-to-skin, in just a diaper with a blanket covering their back or your shirt tucked around them. It is one of the sweetest feelings you’ll ever experience!
What’s amazing about skin-to-skin kangaroo care is that it’s been proven to actually be incredibly beneficial for NICU babies!
Developed in Columbia during the 1970s, after realizing the mortality rate or preterm babies was very high. Research showed that babies who were offered skin-to-skin contact with their mothers for a large portion of the day not only survived, but actually went on to thrive!
Many hospitals have adapted the practice of kangaroo care and encourage the parents of NICU babies to come in for a planned time of one or two hours to have their baby rest on their chest! This practice can even be done if baby has breathing tubes, with a little help from your NICU nurse!
Even just a few hours a day of kangaroo care has been shown to help a NICU baby gain weight, improve their sleep, improve vital signs and even improve brain development!
Proof is in the pudding: Mama’s got that healing touch!
Skin-to-Skin isn’t just for the hospital!
The benefits of having baby right up against your skin is pretty undeniable. Not to mention, amazing!
Setting aside designated time to be skin-to-skin with baby is not just for the hospital. It’s something that can be done even once you’re home! A perfect way to be intentional about soaking up all of those newborn snuggles and smells!
Research shows that skin-to-skin contact is beneficial throughout the full postpartum period–AKA the “fourth trimester.” Keeping baby close can help stable their heartbeat, keep them warm and even keep their blood sugar stable. Not to mention, skin-to-skin time increases the bond, which can in turn lead to more successful breastfeeding (if you choose to nurse!) and even lowering the risk of postpartum depression.
Tips for Skin-to-Skin at Home
Once you’re home from the hospital, it’s so tempting to dress up your little one in all of the adorable outfits you’ve been waiting for them to model–your real life baby doll! But leaving them in just a diaper for nap time is a great way for you to incorporate that skin-to-skin time in your day.
A great time to incorporate those skin-to-skin snuggles? Naps!
You can sit slightly reclined so you’re comfortable and place baby on your bare chest to sleep. You will want to turn their head to the side in order to keep their airways clear of obstruction. Then be sure to place a light blanket over their bare back, so they don’t get chilled!
Wearing a pajama top with a button front is a perfect way to be ready for skin-to-skin on the fly! Check out my favorite pajamas for the postpartum period here!
Not only will this give them all of the benefits that come with skin-to-skin, but it lets you really snuggle them close.
Now if you’re a Mama of multiples, sitting still may not be the most realistic option!
Not to worry! You can still reap the benefits of skin-to-skin in those newborn days by…drumroll please…babywearing!
Babywearing with your baby in a diaper and up against your chest is a perfect way to reap the benefits of skin-to-skin if you have to be on the move!
The easiest way to babywear would probably be in a wrap style carrier. The Solly Baby wrap is one of our favorites for how soft, breathable and lightweight the modal fabric is.
The first few weeks after your baby joins the party are full of getting to know each other and savoring the moments of them being so little. By incorporating skin-to-skin time into your daily routine, you can provide so many amazing benefits to your baby! Not to mention, it’s good for you too.
Mama and baby are designed to stay close.
Settle in and soak it all up, Mama. Babies don’t keep and one day you’ll look back on these moments and be glad you took the time to just take it all in!