Because tasks such as bathing and assessment are so important after childbirth, medical staff often handle these right away. With so much activity though, the special bond between mom and baby can often be overlooked. After being together for 9 months, it is important for mom and baby to stay close in the initial moments after birth, as well as in the hours and days that follow. Even standard nursery procedures can (and should) be performed in the mother’s recovery room to maintain closeness. For all of these reasons, Intermountain Healthcare encourages mothers to participate in this nurturing process known as skin-to-skin care.
What is skin-to-skin care?
Skin-to-skin care, or “kangaroo care,” means holding your baby closely with your bare chests touching. This is done in three simple steps:
- Removal of baby’s clothing and removal or opening of your own shirt (you may want to keep baby’s diaper on).
- Placing baby on your bare chest with your baby facing toward you.
- Cover your baby’s back with a blanket. Relax, cuddle, and enjoy.
Why skin-to-skin care?
Besides providing a wonderful way to bond, studies show skin-to-skin care actually has important health implications for babies – especially when it happens right after birth. To list a few of the benefits, skin-to-skin care:
- Calms and soothes the baby
- Helps the baby maintain a healthy body temperature (better than an incubator)
- Helps regulate the baby’s heart rate, blood sugar, and breathing
- Improves the baby’s sleep
- Helps the baby breastfeed
Skin-to-skin care is good for the mother, too. “It helps her to connect with her baby on an emotional level,” confirms Christina Mack, Labor & Delivery nurse manager at American Fork Hospital. “It helps lower their stress level and recognize when the baby is ready to nurse.” Skin-to-skin also improves the mother’s ability to produce breast milk and helps significantly in the overall recovery process.
Is skin-to-skin for everyone?
Of course, critical medical situations can sometimes delay the skin-to-skin activity. In these cases, it should be noted that preterm babies or babies taken to the NICU (Newborn Intensive Care Unit) can also benefit from skin-to-skin care. Mothers and medical staff usually work together to determine when the baby is stable enough to be held skin-to-skin.