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Skin To Skin With Newborn

How To Hold Your Baby Skin To Skin

Skin to Skin with Your Newborn Baby

Find some good times throughout the day when skin-to-skin works best for you, your baby, and your partner. This might be during feedings , right before a bath, or just before putting pajamas on for bedtime.

Being skin to skin with their mother reduces stress and helps keep a babys heart rate and breathing normal.

Place your baby in a diaper only. Moms, remove your bra. Hold your little bundle directly against your bare chest. Make sure your babys head is turned to the side, so he or she can easily breathe, and hold your baby close enough for you to kiss the top of his head. Your body will keep him warm. Its fine to drape a thin blanket over his back. All you need to do after that is sit quietly and enjoy being close and together.

The Best Place For Your Baby

The best place for your baby straight after birth is on your chest. This is a special time that can have lifelong effects. Your baby will be dried and laid directly on your bare chest after birth, covered in warm blankets and left for at least an hour or until after your first feed together.

Skin-to-skin contact can also take place any time a baby needs comforting or calming and to help boost milk supply. Partners can also be part of ongoing skin-to-skin contact for your baby.

Place your naked baby on your bare chest with a cover over baby’s back, not around baby’s face.

Skin-to-skin contact is safest when you are alcohol, drug and smoke-free, awake and not exhausted.

Skin-to-skin contact:

  • supports a lifelong relationship with you and your baby
  • settles your baby’s heart rate, breathing and temperature – reduces your baby’s stress
  • helps your baby recover from the birth and encourages your baby to search for your breast
  • keeps your baby warm and comforted
  • helps colostrum let-down
  • protects your baby from infection and sets up healthy gut bacteria
  • reduces your risk of bleeding after the birth
  • develops your baby’s brain

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What Is Kangaroo Care

Skin-to-skin contact between mothers and newborns was first used in neonatal wards in Bogota, Colombia, which had a shortage of incubators for babies with severe hospital infections. Neonatologists Edgar Rey and Hector Martinez turned to naturespecifically kangaroos, which hold their young as soon as they are born. They sent mothers home with the instruction to hold their infants diapered but bare-chested between their breasts in an upright position as often as possible, feeding them only breast milk.

What the doctors found was that this skin-to-skin contact not only allowed mothers to leave the hospitals but it also decreased their babies’ dependency on incubators. And the most astounding? The doctors watched as mortality rates plunged from 70 percent to 30 percent.

Now doctors across the United States, South America, South Africa, and other countries recommend this skin-to-skin contactcalled kangaroo care or kangaroo mother careto new moms of both premature and full-term infants. The bonding should last from 60 minutes to 24 hours a day, and it can be performed by fathers as well.

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The Importance Of Skin To Skin Contact

There are now a multitude of studies that show that mothers and babies should be together, skin to skin immediately after birth, as well as later. The baby is happier, the babys temperature is more stable and more normal, the babys heart and breathing rates are more stable and more normal, and the babys blood sugar is more elevated. Not only that, skin to skin contact immediately after birth allows the baby to be colonized by the same bacteria as the mother. This, plus breastfeeding, are thought to be important in the prevention of allergic diseases. When a baby is put into an incubator, his skin and gut are often colonized by bacteria different from his mothers.

We now know that this is true not only for the baby born at term and in good health, but also even for the premature baby. Skin to skin contact and Kangaroo Mother Care can contribute much to the care of the premature baby. Even babies on oxygen can be cared for skin to skin, and this helps reduce their need for extra oxygen, and keeps them more stable in other ways as well .

To recap, skin to skin contact immediately after birth, which lasts for at least an hour has the following positive effects. The baby:

There is no reason that the vast majority of babies cannot be skin to skin with the mother immediately after birth for at least an hour. Hospital routines, such as weighing the baby, should not take precedence.

Mom And Baby Need To Stay Together

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For decades mothers were encouraged to put their newborn babies in warmers and send them to the nursery for monitoring by nursing staff while the mother rested in her room. We are now realizing that when mothers and babies are separated after birth, opportunities are limited to get to know each other. Skin-to-skin contact allows mothers and babies to use all of their senses in building this new relationship.

One long-term study found the benefits of skin-to-skin contact during infancy can be seen for years. After following up on one group of children at age 10, researchers found benefits for those who had skin-to-skin care, including better mother/child attachment behavior, reduced anxiety in the mother and better child thinking and reasoning development.

So hold your baby close from the start and continue to keep baby close throughout infancy.

Steven Baldridge, RN, is a staff educator at University Hospitals Samaritan Medical Center.

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Next Lets Look At Ways To Make This Happen:

In order to do skin-to-skin, there are two things you need: you and the baby. A special device can help but is not required. There are a variety of products that can help facilitate skin-to-skin contacts such as simple bands that go around the torso, sized shirts, and baby carriers. For a newborn, a tank or shirt on the caregiver can provide the perfect opportunity to tuck baby inside and soak in the benefits of skin-to-skin without any specific product. Many of these bands, shirts, and convenient devices are perfect for resting. Most of the time, however, they are not hands-free.

Babywearing is another way to enjoy skin-to-skin contact. When used properly, the carrier provides an extra layer over the wearer and baby while also securely holding the baby. Baby carriers such as buckle carriers , wraps, ring slings, and meh dais can all be used to facilitate skin-to-skin. The caregiver should remove his/her shirt, put the carrier and baby on the body, and you have hands-free skin-to-skin contact. A sweater or robe can be worn over the caregiver and baby for comfort.

The baby carrier can be used in the hospital or in the comfort of home. When using a carrier to facilitate skin-to-skin, the caregiver is able to complete tasks like going to the bathroom, making a meal, or caring for other children while also increasing trust, bonding, and communication with the new baby.

For more information about skin-to-skin contact, visit here.

Kangaroo Care When You Cant Hold Your Baby

Births dont always go to plan, and sometimes mothers arent able to participate in skin-to-skin immediately after the birth. We shouldnt forget the value of skin-to-skin with dad where it isnt possible with mom. A small 2007 study showed babies cried less and calmed quicker on receiving kangaroo care from their dad whilst the mother was in recovery post c-section, compared to babies kept in a bassinet for this time. If your baby is being looked after by doctors and not able to participate in skin-to-skin, hand holding, stroking, a gentle massage, and oral colostrum administration are alternative ways of bonding with your baby.

So, all thats left to do now is get down to some serious snuggling and skin-to-skin time with your baby. And really, what could be better?

For more insights into aspects of the fourth trimester check out our other articles on the Parenting Hub:

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Are There Any Safety Concerns With Skin

For your babyâs safety, there are some reasons why skin-to-skin contact may need to be delayed in the period after giving birth:

  • If there is a medical concern with your baby after birth, skin-to-skin contact may need to be delayed until your baby is stabilized

  • If your baby has a low Apgar score, skin-to-skin contact may need to be delayed until after monitoring

  • If medical staff believe your baby has breathing problems, she may need to be checked and monitored before skin-to-skin contact can happen

  • If there is a concern that the baby could be dropped because Mom or Dad are tired, lightheaded, or ill after the hours spent in labor and childbirth, the medical team may recommend delaying skin-to-skin contact or suggest that a hospital staff member be present during skin-to-skin contact.

Here are some safety measures that you can practice while doing skin-to-skin contact with your baby:

  • Ignore your phone so that your focus is solely on your baby

  • If you are feeling sick or have an illness, such as a cold, you should wait to do kangaroo care so you donât pass anything on to the baby

  • Donât wear perfumes on your skin, as this can irritate your babyâs delicate skin

  • Ensure that your skin is free of rashes, skin lesions, and cold sores

  • Avoid smoking before and during kangaroo care.

When Cant Skin To Skin Be Done

Skin to Skin with your Newborn
  • Babies with very low APGAR scores or other complications may need to be more closely monitored than skin to skin would allow for.
  • In the rare case that a C-section is done under general anesthesia, skin to skin with mom will be delayed until shes awake and alert.
  • If a baby is healthy, Campbell says there are very few situations when skin-to-skin with a parent wouldnt be advisable, barring an active infection on the parents chest or an active respiratory infection like the flu. Even parents with COVID can do skin to skin as long as they wear a mask and wash their hands regularly. HIV-positive parents can do skin to skin too with extra precautions, like not letting the baby latch onto the breast.

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Benefits Of Kangaroo Care

“Physiology and research provide overwhelming evidence that kangaroo mother care is not only safe but superior to the use of technology such as incubators,” says says Dr. Nils Bergman, senior medical superintendent of Mowbray Maternity Hospital in Cape Town, Africa, where doctors deliver 7,000 children a year. “Depriving babies of skin-to-skin makes alternative stress pathways in the brain, which can lead to ADD, colic, sleep disorders, among other things.”

Here are some important benefits of kangaroo care.

Better Adaptability Outside The Womb

“Thermal regulation is a very common problem with infants, especially preterm babies,” says Malika D. Shah, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics and neonatology at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. After all, when your baby was in the womb, she didn’t need to regulate her own temperature. Since your skin is the same temperature as the womb, Baby will find it easier to adapt to her post-birth environment.

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The Benefits Of Skin To Skin

In the womb, the mothers body regulates her fetuses vitals. However, at birth, infants are on their own, breathing for the first time and suddenly managing their own heart rate and temperature. Its quite the transition period, according to Deborah E. Campbell, M.D., director of the Division of Neonatology at the Childrens Hospital at Montefiore. But staying close to mom or dad via skin to skin can have remarkable benefits to ease that transition.

In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends skin to skin occur between mom and baby as soon after birth as mom is awake and stable, and that it continue for an hour, with urgent procedures, tests, and check-ins being performed in this position, and any procedures that require separating mom and baby delayed until an hour of skin to skin and the first breastfeed has taken place.

A 2012 literature review of 34 randomized controlled trials of skin-to-skin reveals why the recommendation makes so much sense. Researchers found that the contact of flesh helped establish and sustain breastfeeding, maintain the babys body temperature, stabilize their blood sugar, shorten the time they spent crying, and in the case of premature babies, helped stabilize their heart rate, all with no other negative side effects. Newer research shows skin-to-skin may promote healthy brain development in babies and reduce the risk of postpartum depression in parents.

Stabilizes The Body Systems

Research On Supporting Breastfeeding and Skin

Benefits to baby

  • Regulates temperature. If a newborn is cool, a moms skin temperature will rise by two degrees. If a newborn is too warm, a moms skin will cool by one degree.
  • Regulates breathing

Benefits to mom

  • Lowers blood pressure and heart rate
  • Lowers the stress hormone, Cortisol, and having lower stress hormones helps with wound healing, milk supply and bonding
  • Lowers chances to have baby blues and postnatal depression

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Older Babies Enjoy Skin

  • Hold your baby skin-to-skin even when you get home from the hospital.
  • There are many benefits to holding your baby skin-to-skin in the months after birth:

  • Helps you learn your baby’s feeding cues
  • Helps with breastfeeding and helps with mom’s milk supply
  • Calms your baby and reduces crying
  • Lowers stress in mom and your baby
  • Helps with bonding between family and your baby
  • Helps your baby grow and develop well

For more information about the importance of responding to your baby’s needs, visit our attachment page.

Do you have more questions about parenting?

  • Speak with a Public Health Nurse. Call the Ottawa Public Health Info Centre at 613-PARENTS or email Ottawa Public Health at
  • Connect with a Public Health Nurse and other parents on the
  • There are a variety of services to make it easier for your child to grow up healthy in Ottawa

What Happens If I Cant Breastfeed Right After Birth

If skin-to-skin contact is delayed for example if your baby needs time in special care it doesnt mean you wont be able to bond with or breastfeed your baby . You should be offered skin-to-skin contact as soon as possible.

In the meantime, the midwife will show you how to express your milk until your baby is ready to breastfeed .

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The Importance Of Skin To Skin With Baby

From boosting breastfeeding to setting the stage for brain development, there are many benefits of skin-to-skin contact between newborn and mom.

Teresa PitmanMay 1, 2018

Baby Ryan struggled with breastfeeding from the time he was born. He would latch on for a minute, then pull his head back and cry, and at times I couldnt get him to latch on at all, says his mom, Renee Farquhar. She ended up pumping and feeding her milk to her son in a bottle, and was beginning to despair that breastfeeding would ever work.

Then, one chilly winter night, Farquhar decided to have a bath with Ryan in hopes of warming them both up. I held him in my arms in the warm water. On his own, he decided that he wanted to nurse right there in the tub. Ryan snuggled against her, latched on beautifully and, Farquhar says, filled his belly. While day-to-day feedings were still sometimes challenging, Farquhar found that Ryan would always nurse well when they were skin to skin in the bathtub. I am not sure who enjoyed it moreme or him, she says.

Babies love to be cuddled and held, as every parent knows. But new evidence suggests that being in skin-to-skin contact with a parent does more than just make the baby happy. It can help to solve breastfeeding problems, prevent hypoglycemia and other newborn difficulties, reduce pain, stabilize premature babiesand set the stage for optimal brain development. Thats pretty impressive for something so low-tech!

Improves Babys Gut Health & Immunity

Skin-to-skin Contact After Birth

Skin-to-skin also helps the babys digestive system mature. A study reports that the contact stimulates the vagal nerve, causing increased growth in the size of the villi in the newborn gut, which provides a larger surface area for the absorption of nutrition. There is also less chance of infection because babies given kangaroo mother care become colonized with the bacteria on their mothers skin. This causes her milk to produce antibodies in response and makes it specifically protective against those bacteria. In other words, it strengthens their immune system. This is by far, one of the main kangaroo care benefits in both poor and wealthy countries alike. Nurture Through Touch. A great thing to do if your baby is experiencing colic since this is sometimes linked to gut/digestive issues.

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How Do I Know When My Baby Is Ready To Feed

You and your baby might both want to watch and wait a while, cuddling skin-to-skin, in a laid-back or semi-reclined position. After some time, your newborn might make hand movements and then start rooting turning towards your nipple and opening their mouth . This is a really good sign that theyre ready to feed.

“Skin-to-skin contact isnt just for immediately after your baby is born. Your baby will love it if you do it any time during the first few weeks.”

This will help with bonding while you become familiar with each other. Its also a really good way to help your baby to attach successfully at your breast. Theyre born to do this using their natural crawling and latching on reflexes .

If your baby is born by caesarean birth, you should still be able to have skin-to-skin contact straight after the birth . Your midwife can offer you extra help with positioning and attachment to protect your wound .

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