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The Benefits of Skin-to-Skin Care

Oct 03, 2012
Introduces the concept of "skin-to-skin contact" in reinforcing bond between infant and parents and benefiting infant health.

By Dr. Sue Surry

New research is beginning to confirm what nature knew all along – that the benefits of holding a newborn baby close in uninterrupted skin-to-skin care right after birth has benefits for both mother and child. Skin-to-skin care is especially important in the first hour following birth, but is also beneficial during the weeks that follow.

But what is skin-to-skin care? It is something that most babies and mothers can do right after birth. When a baby is held bare, wearing only a diaper, right against the bare chest of the mother, it helps to create a connection – an unseen bond between mother and child.  The baby feels her skin, hears her voice, and gets to know her scent.  In these ways, the baby intimately senses its mother and is comforted right after the stress and trauma of childbirth. New studies on the topic are also indicating that this skin-to-skin care:

  • Helps to regulate the temperature, breathing, heart rate, and blood sugar levels of the baby right after birth.
  • Calms the baby and reduces their stress hormone, which can be high following a long labour and delivery.
  • Increases the mother’s natural hormonal responses to her baby, which promotes less bleeding after birth and helps her to feel connected to her baby.
  • Helps the baby express natural instincts for breastfeeding – when placed this way most babies will seek the breast and start to breastfeed even without help.

Mothers may need to ask their caregivers in hospital for help in providing this skin-to-skin care after giving birth. It can be done immediately, usually even if a cesarean was performed or stitches were required.

When possible, it can be especially important for low-birth weight or premature babies as it helps them adjust to life outside the womb. Fathers can also provide skin-to-skin care, and by doing so they will undoubtedly feel a greater connection to their new baby.

For more information on skin-to-skin care and other topics related to prenatal and early child health, call Your Health Connection at 705-721-7520 or 1-877-721-7520, Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m..

Dr. Surry is one of Simcoe Muskoka’s associate medical officers of health and a paediatrician.

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