Hold your newborn close to your bare chest right after birth – is an advice all of us are familiar with. But, most of us don’t know the benefits that can be reaped by such a cozy and beautiful thing that you do with your newborn baby. From promoting perfect latch to stimulating healthy growth, skin to skin benefits in a myriad of ways. After all, human touch can change everything.
How to do skin to skin?
Skin to Skin also known as Kangaroo care is done by holding an uncovered baby against mother’s bare chest. Just place your baby’s bare body on your chest. Make sure that she is able to feel your warmth and protection and the baby’s head is close to your chin. Her knees should be curled up just like in a fetal position (not necessary but this is how your baby would automatically position into) and hands close to her face. This is the position she was in while in the womb, so it’s very comfortable for her. Cover yourself and the baby with the blanket to have some extra comfort and coziness.
When and how many times should skin to skin be done?
Kangaroo care should be done right after delivery for around an hour or two. Your baby has been inside you for 9 whole months. He is so used to being protected, feeling your warmth, hearing your voice and listening to your heartbeat. And then suddenly, all that’s taken away from him. Skin to Skin is the best way to slowly transition your baby’s way of life inside of the womb to life in this world.
Uninterrupted skin to skin right after birth is so crucial. But, today’s hospital rules have somehow let women to believe that the babies should straight be taken for their medical examinations and handled by nurses and doctors as they are trained in newborn care. Well. they are but not more than you. You are more prepared to hold and care for your child than anybody else. If yours is a medicated or complicated delivery, fathers should step in and do the deed themselves. An exception is unavoidable if the baby too needs extensive medical care. But, the baby should be held by either of the parents immediately after being born. (Mothers are preferred for the first hold)
10 Skin to Skin Benefits You Should Know:
#1 It helps regulate baby’s body temperature.
Thermal regulation is something that a baby’s body takes time to adapt. When the baby comes out of the womb it might be cold or warm depending on the weather and keeping her body temperature stable is utterly important. It has been shown that both mother’s and father’s body work better than an electric warmer to adjust baby’s heart rate and body temperature. (Mother’s body does have an edge though)
#2 It helps in bonding.
The time after birth or the first hour after birth is called the ‘Golden Hour’. After having been wanting to hold your baby for a whole 9 months, you can finally feel his little fingers and toes, touch him and cuddle him. Skin to Skin helps in releasing a rush of hormones in both the mother and the baby helping them to get over the trauma of childbirth and feel the love and connection they share with each other. Skin to Skin can equally help the father to bond to by kicking off the paternal instincts. Not to forget the ways it can help for parents to learn baby’s behaviours and decode your toothless’ common body language to know if he is hungry, sleepy or just bored.
#3 It helps baby to adapt.
Skin to Skin helps in supporting healthy lung and heart function. When the baby lies close to the mother’s chest they are able to sync into the rhythm of both heart and lungs. Plus the warmth helps them to adapt better. They are also used to listening to their mother’s heartbeat and breathing patterns while in the womb and the sound of it is soothing and calming to them. Kangaroo care right after birth also helps in stabilizing the baby’s blood sugar levels and keep them from dropping it too low. Skin to Skin also helps in building immunity and supporting healthy gut environment.
#4 It helps reduce both mom’s and baby’s stress and pain.
Skin to skin kicks in the production of the love hormone called oxytocin in both the mother and the baby. Oxytocin is also responsible for kicking in the contractions and also plays a major role in breast milk production. Oxytocin acts on your parasympathetic nerves, reduces stress and increases relaxation for both mother and the baby. All the procedures that need to be done like heel stick test can all be done while the baby is on the mother’s chest. The pain due to these tests will also be less in the baby. Skin to Skin can provide so much relief to the baby and its benefits is just intensifying with each research done.
#5 It helps in reducing baby blues and postpartum depression.
Around 80% women experience baby blues during postpartum and there are 10 million cases of PPD in India each year. It’s safe to say that along with promoting normalization of mental health, it’s also important that we try to take control and care of your mental health as much as we do for our physical health too. Skin to Skin helps in mediating and controlling the hormonal changes that can fuel up the stress and grief in mothers. When the mothers are in close contact with their babies, the body automatically enforces a positive feeling of well being in the mother. In one study it has been proven that mothers who had 6 hours of skin to skin in the first week followed by at least 2 hours of skin to skin in the first month had reduced cortisol levels and fewer symptoms of depression.
#6 It helps in reducing crying episodes.
Having such a close contact with the mother for even an hour a day can bolster up the feeling of protection and reduces separation distress. Most newborns cry when they feel separated from their caretaker. It’s a natural instinct of all the mammals to weep if they don’t feel the security and closeness with their mother. A study in the journal Pediatrics concluded that skin to skin for 3 hours a day can reduce the crying episodes by as much as 43%. This is quite a relief for you as you are still learning too. More bonding and less crying also promote healthy sleeping patterns in babies. They sleep longer and better. This helps you to get more rest too, which in turn, further reduces stress levels.
#7 It helps in making breastfeeding easier.
Kangaroo care right after birth helps the baby to find the baby breast all by himself, latch and indulge in coordinated suckling. The newborn first has the hand to mouth movement at an average 30 minutes after birth and the intense urge to suckles at about 45 minutes after birth. Any newborn, when placed on his mother’s abdomen right after birth, has the ability to crawl all by himself to the mother’s breast to suckles. This is called ‘breast crawl‘ Newborn baby is instantly attracted to his mother’s smell and breast milk’s sweet smell too. Some babies might need some help to latch but they have no problem in finding the nipple and they don’t resist feeding.
Till when should skin to skin be done with your baby?
Kangaroo care should isn’t just for after birth. It can be done for up to 12 weeks or beyond. The newborn stage is the perfect time to do around an hour of kangaroo care daily with your baby. Don’t worry about your baby getting used to it after a while. They will be more active as they grow up and would not want to stay at some place for long too except of course, during the wonder weeks. Kangaroo care during the newborn stage will reap same benefits as it does right after birth especially reducing baby blues, chances of PPD and promoting better sleep in your little one.
Kangaroo care is particularly more vital for a preemie baby. There is a study that proves that exclusive breastfeeding along with lots of skin to skin can help premature babies develop normally and can also have long term effects in the form of less stressful lives and higher salaries. Doing skin to skin with a preemie baby might require medical supervision depending on the week she was born and how well she is doing without an incubator. Nonetheless, benefits of skin to skin can’t be ignored and even doctors around the world are realizing its importance in the healthy development of a baby.
It doesn’t matter if you are adopting a newborn baby or having a surrogate mother too. Doing skin to skin is equally important even then. You and the baby will be able to connect much better with each other after doing some daily skin to skin. It’s a beautiful and sacred experience and not to forget once in a lifetime. Kangaroo care is something no mother should ever miss.
How did it feel to hold and cuddle your baby for the first time? Tell us in One Word below.