The power of skin-to-skin

Skin-to-skin isn’t just for those first hours or days after birth! Do not underestimate the power of skin-to-skin time with your baby. Even if your birthing circumstances didn’t allow this to happen right away, it is never too late to start.

What are the benefits?

  • More stable heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen levels for your baby 
  • Encourages pre-feeding behaviors and reflexes
  • Calms you and your baby by reducing cortisol (stress) levels and releasing oxytocin which is responsible for your milk let-down (the love hormone)
  • Less crying
  • Boosts baby’s immune system 
  • Brain development and function
  • Bonding and attachment for both mom and baby
  • Lower risk of postpartum depression for mom 
  •  Written by Nicole Schwartz

Moms and babies aren’t the only ones who can participate in skin-to-skin. Dads and partners can also engage in this activity with their babies. This skin-to-skin time with another caregiver has many of the same positive effects for baby and caregiver, such as bonding, and regulating temperature, breathing, and heart rate. 

How to do skin-to-skin:

Strip your baby down to a diaper and remove your shirt (and bra if wearing). Lay your baby on their belly on your chest. If it is cold in the room, put a blanket on top of your baby and yourself after you lay them on your chest. (If you think you will fall asleep while doing this make sure to have another caregiver be present with you. Falling asleep with your baby on your chest could pose a safety risk.) Aim to keep your infant this way for at least an hour- this is the time it takes for a newborn to go through a complete sleep/ wake cycle.

Amazing fact- did you know that your breasts can independently adjust their temperature, either up or down, based on the temperature of your baby while they lay on you? If you have twins, each breast can adjust separately for each baby?!

Modifications to just laying in bed or on a chair like this include- Taking a nice relaxing warm bath with your baby on your chest, or babywear in a baby carrier with your top off and baby stripped down to a diaper.

Skin-to-skin care also benefits older babies. A Swedish study looked at babies aged 1-16 weeks with severe problems latching on to the breast. It investigated if skin-to-skin contact could positively affect the baby’s ability to latch, compared to a group where the baby was clothed. The skin-to-skin babies were able to resolve their latch difficulties quicker and their mothers felt more positive and experienced less pain.

I often recommend skin-to-skin for latching and supply difficulties, nursing strikes, weaning from nipple shields, getting back to the breast after time away, post-tongue-tie release, and general fussiness.

Skin-to-skin can be a great way to reset with your baby. If you are feeling stressed because of nursing or breast milk supply issues taking a few days to do nothing but relax with your baby bonding and feeding them frequently can be a great option.

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