Skin to skin contact with your baby, also known as kangaroo care, has so many benefits for both you and your new little one!
I didn’t even know all of the benefits of spending time skin-to-skin with my girls when they were born, but I’m so glad the hospital where I gave birth encouraged me to do it. The time I spent with them skin-to-skin are some of my sweetest memories from those early days!
I knew skin-to-skin was good for babies, but in doing research for this post I was absolutely blown away by all of the ways skin to skin can help both you and the baby. Here are just a few of the benefits.
Skin to skin contact regulates your baby’s temperature
Newborn babies have a difficult time regulating their own temperature. The surface area of their skin in relation to their body is much higher than ours, so they lose body heat very quickly.
But If you place them naked (with or without a diaper) on your bare chest, the warmth of your body will help the baby keep their temperature at a more constant level. Your body can actually sense the baby’s temperature and adjust your temperature accordingly to what the baby needs. If the baby is too cold, your body temperature will go up so that the baby gets warmer. If she’s too hot, your body temperature will go down to cool the baby off. I think that is the most amazing thing!! (Source)
In fact, that’s how skin-to-skin got its start! There were some doctors in South America who didn’t have enough incubators for all of the babies that needed them. They sent the babies home with their moms and told them to hold them skin-to-skin as much as possible, and the death rate for those babies went from 70 percent all the way down to 30 percent!
It Improves Bonding With Mom AND Dad
Spending time skin-to-skin with your baby helps the two of you build a closer bond!
Believe it or not, you might not feel completely in love with your baby right after you give birth. After all, you’ve never met this strange little person before! It’s natural for it to take some time to start experiencing those intense feelings of love towards your baby.
Skin-to-skin can speed that process up, and even help you bond even closer than you would have otherwise. This is especially true if you aren’t breastfeeding.
This is a great way for dads to nurture that bond with the baby as well. It can be easy for dads to feel left out and unimportant during those early days of having a newborn, but skin-to-skin can help them feel much closer to your new little one!
Increases Breastfeeding Success Rates
Skin-to-skin contact between you and your baby seems to have an almost magical effect on breastfeeding.
Lots of newborns can figure out breastfeeding completely unassisted if they’re given enough time and the opportunity to do so. There are actually nine stages that a newborn will go through in the first hour after birth if the baby and mom are left undisturbed with skin-to-skin contact. A newborn will even crawl up to her mom’s breast and attach completely by herself! (Watch a video of this happening here ***graphic warning***) (Source)
Unfortunately the first hour is often interrupted by weighing or bathing the baby, or any the other procedures that typically happen after birth. This hour is so important for bonding with your baby, so make sure to communicate with your doctor and other hospital staff that you want to delay all of the typical procedures until you’ve had at least an hour with the baby!
Another way that skin-to-skin can help with breastfeeding is by helping babies feel safe and relaxed. They don’t need to cry for attention during skin-to-skin because they’re already with you. It gives them a chance to focus on the important things like figuring out how to breastfeeding. Being near you, feeling your warmth and smelling your milk makes them much more likely to breastfeed successfully.
Babies who aren’t held skin-to-skin experience a lot more stress because they don’t feel safe and secure. If a baby is under stress, they’re much less likely to be willing to breastfeed even if you offer them a breast while they’re hungry and crying.
Being in the warmth and safety of skin-to-skin works wonders to help baby breastfeed successfully! (source)
Spending lots of time skin-to-skin in they days and weeks after birth can also increase your milk supply, because it encourages breastfeeding to happen more often. You are more likely to recognize the signs of your baby starting to get hungry during skin-to-skin time. The baby is more likely to breastfeed frequently if she can feel your breasts and smell your milk.
Since the amount of breast milk you make is based on supply and demand, your supply will go up the more often you breastfeed.
If you’re having trouble getting your baby to latch or having any other problems with breastfeeding, you should try spending lots of time doing skin-to-skin. Being close with you helps get the baby ready to nurse, and they’re more likely to latch on without any problems. (Source)
Skin-to-skin helps your baby’s immune system
When your baby is against your chest, she is exposed to normal flora on your skin. This is good bacteria that helps develop her immune system and protect her against disease and sickness. That’s protection she wouldn’t get without skin-to-skin!
This is a fantastic way for moms who bottle-feed to still give their babies immune systems a little boost. Even non-breastfed babies can still get the benefits of skin-to-skin!
Babies who are held skin-to-skin cry less
Like I mentioned earlier, skin-to-skin contact helps babies feel more safe and secure. You’re also going to be much more attentive to your baby if she’s right there on your chest. You’ll be able to anticipate and meet her needs before she gets worked up enough to have to cry to get your attention. (Source)
Also, because skin-to-skin improves your bond with your baby overall, they’ll also be less likely to be fussy and cry even when you aren’t holding them.
Skin-to-skin is great for you, too!
Skin-to-skin contact with your baby releases a hormone called oxytocin which is known as the feel-good hormone. It reduces your feelings of stress and anxiety, and helps you bond with the baby. This reduces your chances of suffering from postpartum depression! (Source)
Skin-to-skin care helps you be more in tune with what your baby needs, which helps you be more confident in your abilities as a mom.
Another huge benefit of skin-to-skin that we talked about earlier is how it helps with breastfeeding. Breastfeeding has tons of benefits for you, like recovering faster from childbirth, decreased risk of cancer, and even more protection against postpartum depression. So skin-to-skin offers those benefits indirectly through increasing your chances of breastfeeding successfully! (Source)
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The Benefits of Skin-to-Skin Are Amazing
Are you as amazed as I am by how many ways skin-to-skin care benefits babies and moms? Writing this post and remembering snuggling my girls skin-to-skin when they were little almost makes me want to have another baby! Ha!
Melinda worked with children for years in a professional setting before becoming a full-time stay at home mom. She currently has three young children, and enjoys sharing tips and ideas about parenting and how to manage a home with excellence. She’s been featured on Heathline and Her View From Home.