What are the benefits of skin-to-skin care?
Mothers have probably always held their babies skin-to-skin. It’s a wonderful way to be close. Yet recent studies have shown that skin-to-skin care also has important health benefits for babies, especially right after birth.
Benefits to baby, skin-to-skin care:
- Calms and soothes your baby
- Helps your baby maintain a healthy body temperature (it’s better than an incubator)
- Helps regulate your baby’s heart rate, blood sugar, and breathing
- Improves your baby’s sleep
- Helps your baby breastfeed
Skin-to-skin care is good for mom, too. It can lower stress and help you bond and connect with your newborn. It can also improve your ability to make breast milk and to know when your baby is ready to nurse. For all of these reasons, we encourage new moms to hold your baby skin-to-skin right after the birth and in the hours and days following.
How do I do it?
If you’ve just given birth, your doctor or nurse can bring the baby to you for skin-to-skin care, and will help you comfortably position and hold your baby. After that time, you and the baby’s father can give skin-to-skin care whenever you choose. Here are the simple steps:
- Remove your baby’s clothing and remove or open your shirt. (You may want to keep your baby’s diaper on.)
- Place your baby on your bare chest, with your baby facing in toward you.
- Cover your baby’s back with a blanket. Relax and enjoy
When can I begin skin-to-skin care?
Unless there are complications, your doctor or nurse will give you a chance to hold your newborn skin-to-skin soon after the birth. Some mothers want their babies placed on their abdomens right away, so that they can help dry the baby while the umbilical cord is being clamped and cut. Other moms will begin skin-to-skin care after their babies have been dried and weighed. You and your medical team can decide together how best to begin skin-to-skin care of your newborn.
Preterm babies and babies taken to the NICU (Newborn Intensive Care Unit) can also benefit from skin-to-skin care. Your baby’s medical team can let you know when your baby is stable enough to be held skin-to-skin.
RELATED: What your baby’s skin is telling you
Should I continue skin-to-skin care once I leave the hospital?
Yes, we’d encourage you to hold your baby skin-to-skin at home. You and your baby can share this closeness any time you like. It’s good for you, for your baby, and for your relationship as parent and child. Just remember to keep the house fairly warm and to cover your baby’s back with a blanket while you snuggle.