Skin-to-skin is the best place for your baby to adjust to life in the outside world. Being skin-to-skin with mom helps stabilize your baby’s temperature and breathing, and helps you both feel more calm and relaxed. When babies are held this way they can hear their mother’s heartbeat and breathing, and smell and feel her skin.
Hold your baby skin-to-skin right after birth for at least one hour or until your baby has finished breastfeeding for the first time. This is familiar and comforting to newborns and especially important for premature babies. For preterm babies this is called “kangaroo mother care”.
How skin-to-skin works
Your healthcare provider will dry your baby and place him on your chest with a warm blanket over his back to snuggle with you. It is best to stay like this for at least an hour or until after the first breastfeeding.
The importance of skin-to-skin:
- Stabilizes your baby’s heart rate, breathing, and blood sugar
- Keeps your baby warm through your body heat
- Promotes bonding and getting to know your baby
- Helps your baby to be calmer and cry less
- Helps you to be more confident and relaxed
- Helps your milk flow and may improve your milk supply
- Promotes a deep latch – your baby will get more milk and you are less likely to develop sore nipples
- Reduces baby’s pain during newborn blood tests (breastfeeding is another way to reduce pain)
Skin-to-skin contact continues to be important for all babies and mothers for the first three months after birth. Some additional benefits are:
Improves mother’s mood during the first two months
Increases breastfeeding rates at three months
Reduces baby’s pain during immunizations (watch: The Power of a Parent’s Touch)
Dr. Nils Bergman explains the importance of skin-to-skin in this video:
DISCLAIMER: Near the end of this video, there is a baby shown on his sleeping father’s chest. The Canadian Paediatric Society does NOT recommend or endorse this practice because babies can suffocate. Parents and caregivers should be awake when they hold their baby. See more information on safe sleep.
Skin-to-skin after a Caesarean birth (C-section)
Skin-to-skin cuddling as soon as your baby is born is possible for most births. Most hospitals even support skin-to-skin contact in the operating rooms during non-emergency C-sections.
If, for medical reasons, you are unable to cuddle skin-to-skin with your baby, your partner can until you are healthy enough. This familiar, loving voice and close contact will help with baby’s transition to the outside world. Watch this video to see skin-to-skin after a C-section. Skin-to-skin C-sections promote health and bonding.
Skin-to-skin for preterm babies
Skin-to-skin contact is especially important for preterm babies. This is called “kangaroo mother care”. Kangaroo care keeps baby’s heart rate stable, increases the oxygen that baby absorbs, and decreases stress and infections. Watch this mother’s story of kangaroo care for her baby who was born at 25 weeks.