The Benefits of Early Skin to Skin Contact with Babies and Parents

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Picture this: how do you envision welcoming your baby immediately following birth? Did you know it’s commonly accepted and encouraged, that as long as baby is healthy, he or she should go directly to mom’s chest? That’s right!

Within the first hour of a baby’s birth, skin to skin contact should be initiated between mom and baby if possible. There are many benefits to both mom and baby If mom isn’t able to do skin to skin following the birth, there’s still benefit for a non-birthing parent to cuddle up with the baby.

Here are some benefits of skin to skin contact for both mom and baby following the birth:  

  • May promote an increase in mother’s oxytocin levels and prolactin levels. These hormone increase and promote breastfeeding and bonding, and can possibly prevent postpartum hemorrhage in the mother.

  • Temperature regulation for the baby, by being on mom’s chest. The mother’s temperature adjusts to stabilize the baby.  Our bodies are so smart!

  • Reduces newborn stress and stress hormones which helps to optimize the newborn’s transition and adjustment to live outside the womb. This helps stabilize the baby’s energy consumption, glucose levels, respiration, crying and initiating breastfeeding.

  • Promotes breastfeeding through signaling lactation hormones.

  • In the early weeks of a baby’s life skin to skin contact has ongoing benefits for maternal mental health by raising oxytocin and prolactin levels- both hormones are stress reducing. Also, who doesn’t love baby cuddles?

There may be an instance where it’s not possible for mom and baby to have immediate skin to skin within the first hour of birth, especially in the instance of a medical condition or complication. It’s still possible to experience the benefits of skin to skin contact when mom and baby are brought together. Initiating breastfeeding releases hormones such as oxytocin, prolactin and beta-endorphins. These are all soothing to the mother, and can reduce stress in both mom and baby.

Resource: Hormonal Physiology of Childbearing: Evidence and Implications for Women, Babies, and Maternity Care (2015) by Dr. Sarah J. Buckley 
Jen Mayer