Skin-to-Skin Contact with a Newborn
Without a doubt, the bond between a mother and child is something that comes from the womb; and this bond is made stronger through skin-to-skin contact with a newborn in the first few hours after birth.
Certainly, the first physical encounter between mother and newborn, right at the moment immediately following birth, is important. This is when the first contact between the mother’s skin and her child’s skin creates a nexus for life.
This connection is important because it brings benefits to both mother and child. Among those advantages is how it fosters the warmth and tenderness that’s needed to start breastfeeding and continue with it in the first months.
Ample skin-to-skin contact will strengthen the existing tie between the newborn and the mother, giving the baby the emotional wellbeing that it needs and that’s highly important for his development.
The connection that begins to build between mother and child will be further strengthened by breastfeeding and the comfort the baby feels from the warmth of the mother’s body.
And this kind of contact isn’t limited to just right after birth or just the delivery room. Skin-to-skin contact should continue in the first days and weeks after birth. The father can use this method as well during the stay at the hospital and once released at home.
Moreover, experts recommended continuing to take such moments with the baby throughout infancy. It has both immediate and long-term benefits.
When to practice skin-to-skin contact with a newborn
Once the baby is stable after birth, with the help of the nursing staff you can take him from the incubator to the arms of his mother. The goal is that the mother provides the warmth the baby needs, through skin-to-skin with the newborn.
There’s no time limit for the skin-to-skin-contact if there is no clinical reason the infant can’t stay at his mother’s breast. Nonetheless, it’s recommended the baby has this kind of contact with his mother for at least an hour, so the baby can stabilize physically and emotionally with his mom.
In the same way, it’s very important that both parents are present during this encounter. The parents should wear comfortable clothing and sit or lie down together with their chests uncovered. This will allow the newborn to have full contact with the skin of his parents.
The baby should only be wearing a diaper and the mother should cradle him gently against her body with her forearm. You can use a blanket to loosely cover the mother and baby if necessary.
Consequently, this direct contact between the skin of a newborn and that of his mother is fundamental for the regulation of the baby’s body temperature. In addition, it offers a great number of benefits for mother and child.
The father and older siblings can also carry out this practice. They can give the baby the warmth he needs with skin-to-skin contact as well, strengthening the ties between them.
“When a newborn first squeezes his father’s finger with his little fist, he has him trapped forever.”
– Gabriel García Márquez –
Benefits for the baby
Newborn babies who are placed directly against their mother, establishing skin-to-skin contact, start to breastfeed adequately in less time. In this position, they can find the breast easily in an instinctive way. They can latch on a lot quicker and more spontaneously.
This aspect is important because breastfeeding has a number of benefits for the baby. Among them, the capacity to provide nutrients and protect against infections.
This physical contact also regulates the newborn’s body temperature because the mother’s skin also becomes warmer in response to the baby. Moreover, it stimulates the baby’s senses as his family members talk to him and caress him.
The importance of rest for the mother and child
It helps to control the baby’s crying if he’s resting on his mother’s lap. It also lowers the baby’s levels of cortisol, the hormone related to stress. Relaxing and resting have the effect of neutralizing the cortisol, giving the baby a sensation of security.
Being skin-to-skin favors sleep and rest because of the sense of security and tranquility emitted, but not just for the newborn. The calming feeling that comes from relaxing will also lower the stress of the mother at the same time. In addition, it’ll increase her confidence in being a mother.
In this way, skin-to-skin contact with a newborn becomes a natural part of interacting with the baby. It’s indispensable for all parents because it creates closeness with the baby and transmits wellbeing and protection.
The transition from the mother’s womb to the outside world can be full of stress for the newborn; a warm welcome by skin-to-skin contact with the mother can be enough to overcome this.