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The Benefits of Skin to Skin, and How to Do It

September 23, 2021

Your naked chest is more than just a place to hold your newborn, it’s a way of sharing love. Warm contact between parent and baby skin releases oxytocin (the love hormone) and transfers body heat to the baby. This can help you and your baby. Be happier and healthier. There are also many benefits that can be studied. It helps babies adjust to life outside of the womb, strengthens bonding, reduces stress (for parents and babies), encourages breastfeeding and lessens crying. But how do you get there? How often? It depends. Here’s the science.

The Benefits of Skin to Skin

The mother’s body controls the vitals of her baby in the womb. At birth, however, infants can breathe for the first time, and are able to manage their own temperature and heart rate. According to Dr. Deborah E. Campbell (Director of the Division of Neonatology) at Children’s Hospital Montefiore, it’s a difficult transition period. It can be very beneficial to stay close to your parents to ease the transition.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, skin to skin should occur as soon as possible after birth. This is because mom must be awake and stable. It should continue for at least an hour. There is a delay in procedures of separating a baby until the contact has occurred and the first breastfeed has taken.

The 2012 literature review that included 34 controlled supported the recommendation, randomised trials of skin-toskin. Researchers discovered that breastfeeding allows flesh contact as well as stabilizing the baby’s blood sugar and reducing crying time. For premature babies, it also helped to stabilize their heart beat. Recent research has shown that this contact may be beneficial for babies’ brain development and decrease the chance of parents suffering from postpartum depression.

there’s a permission for contact with flesh for sustaining breast feeding

This can be so beneficial in improving outcomes for new families. You can check out the best baby carrier that promotes mother and baby contact.

Temperature Regulation

It has one of the best immediate effects. It helps babies maintain their body temperature. Babies’ temperature drops by an average of 2 to 4 degrees Celsius when they are first exposed to air. This is often the case in cold environments such as a delivery room. Campbell explains that “Mom has an extraordinary ability to regulate her body temperature so her baby stays warm when she places her infant on her chest.”

One controlled, randomised trial with 100 babies showed that infants who had right after birth were eight times more likely to succumb to hypothermia. Also for hypothermic babies, It proves that it is effective at warming them up as an incubator

Breastfeeding

According to 13 studies, The rates of breastfeeding increased up to four months due to skin-to-skin after the birth. According to an average of six weeks, skin-to-skin breastfeeding was more common in new mothers who breastfed soon after birth than those who did not.

Researchers think this is due to the newborns’ increased alertness and senses of smell. The hardwired brains allows locating their mother’s nipple. If there is no clothing between them, the mother’s skin will be at her body temperature. The mother’s smell, which is also present in the infant’s skin prompts them to search for nipple.

Researchers believe that the hormone oxytocin plays a key role in this process. Researchers believe that oxytocin, which reduces anxiety and stress, helps mothers feel calm and mastery, which in turn leads to increased breastfeeding duration and confidence. The moms who feel good about breastfeeding are more likely to continue doing it.

Crying

It is not surprising that babies who are held close to their parents’ chests tend to be more calm. A 1995 controlled study of 30 infants found that only 14% of babies cried more than the first 90 minutes after they were born. However, 93% of babies cried more than one minute when they were placed in cots. Researchers believe that infants, like all mammals, instinctually recognize separation and cry to “restore contact with the mother.”

Even after the birth, babies still have the ability to feel comfort from this contact. Studies have shown that babies who are held skin-toskin while receiving blood draws, heel pricks, or shots cry less. They have lower heart rates, higher levels of stress hormones and more neutral facial expressions. This suggests less pain.

Skin to Skin After a C-Section

Campbell states that routine cesareans can still be performed by babies. It could happen during an operation or in the recovery room. Studies after c sections have shown that it reduces moms’ pain and makes them feel happier and less anxious. It is also associated with less medication. Campbell states that if a parent is unable or unwilling to have it due to nausea, general anesthetics, some hospitals will allow the other parent to have skin contact time.

Research focuses mostly on skin-to skin between babies and mothers. However, research shows that babies can reap similar benefits with their dads. A study on infants who were born by cesarean revealed that skin contact with their fathers within a few hours of birth showed that they had higher heart rates, lower body temperatures, cried less and ate more quickly. The dads also scored lower in anxiety and depression, and were able to bond with their children more quickly.

Skin-to-skin will not operate if an infant is too premature. Campbell states that it is a matter of the amount of support given to the baby. “In recent years, there has been a greater emphasis on helping parents provide skin-toskin care for babies when they are physiologically ready.” According to the AAP, there is good evidence that this contact can help improve the health and well-being of premature infants. It also helps parents feel less helpless if their baby has to remain in the NICU.

A Year of Skin to Skin

It continues to be a benefit for both baby and parents long after the baby is born. It is a way for baby to be exposed to the good bacteria in their parents’ lungs, which helps to strengthen their immune system. If the mother is breastfeeding, this can help customize breastmilk as the body will produce antibodies to match the bacteria in the baby’s system.

Parents also reap the benefits. Researchers believe that the powerful oxytocin hit that skin-toskin triggers can make it an effective tool to prevent depression and reduce stress for parents. A 2017 controlled study found that fathers who held their baby for this purpose at least 15 minutes the day before birth and continued to hold it for the next three days were more likely to bond with their babies than those who held them while they were clothed.

The Father-Child attachment scale is a tool that measures father-child bonding. This survey asks dads to report how often they touch, care for, talk to and explore their child. According to researchers, holding infants’ skins close together helped fathers better understand their child’s needs. They also theorized that the release of oxytocin (sometimes referred to as the love hormone/neurotransmitter) associated with skin to skin helps relax parents and reduce their stress levels, which further promotes bonding. According to the authors, a study found that contact does not only increases oxytocin in fathers and mothers but also causes an increase in cortisol. This is significant because of a 2018 study that looked at almost 300 father-infant couples. It was found that dads who had higher cortisol levels when they held their baby for the first time were more involved in their baby’s care several months later.