Benefits of skin-to-skin contact

If the baby does not require immediate and urgent medical care, putting him on the mother’s naked torso for skin-to-skin contact is one of the most beneficial and pleasurable practices for both that we can offer.

Mammals need close contact with their mother, and a clear example is during feeding (breastfeeding). This phenomenon should not be anecdotal or accidental because it is what evolutionarily has made us survive. Why are food and skin-to-skin contact part of the same act? Probably because physical nutrition cannot be separated from emotional nutrition.

Skin-to-skin contact, since when?

An important event in the evolution of mammals was placentation, the internal development of the fetus, and prolonged postpartum care was a necessary act to ensure survival to reproductive age.

We are enveloped for nine months by the uterine walls and continuously fed by the umbilical cord. The mother welcomes and feeds unconditionally, with close contact and in a pleasant atmosphere for the baby.

Therefore, from an anthropological and developmental point of view, and supported by numerous scientific studies, the most appropriate time to initiate skin-to-skin contact is from birth.

In fact, there are multiple clinical studies that support the multiple benefits of maintaining close mother-child or skin-to-skin contact during the first two hours after delivery, whether natural or cesarean.
Scientific studies also describe that premature babies who receive continuous skin-to-skin contact decrease the incidence of apneas, the incidence of infections and increase their weight gain.

It is such a simple and cheap act and, at the same time, so effective and with so many benefits that the WHO(World Health Organization), in one of its publications, shows a summary of the immediate and long-term benefits of early contact skin to skin between the mother and her newborn.

The first two hours of the baby’s life

After delivery, babies have a state called quiet alertness. They remain awake, with their eyes open that allows them to recognize the maternal odor and to crawl for the mother’s breast and start sucking. These innate behaviors develop when they are placed skin-to-skin with their mother. It is a precious period that is part of its development and that it does not repeat itself.

Immediate benefits of skin-to-skin contact

If the baby does not require immediate and urgent medical care, putting the baby on the mother’s naked torso is one of the most beneficial and enjoyable practices for mother and child that we can offer. It is important to know that skin-to-skin contact the two hours immediately after birth can be carried out, without inconvenience, in vaginal deliveries or by cesarean section.

The short-term benefits would be

  • Establishment of effective breastfeeding and a correct rise in breast milk.
  • The baby can better regulate its temperature with skin-to-skin contact.
  • The mother presents an oxytocin peak that favors the affective bond with her son and a solid attachment.
  • Babies cry less and are relaxed.
  • They have fewer apneas(stops of breathing), especially in premature babies.
  • They present greater cardiorespiratory stability.
  • Glycemic(blood glucose) and ion levels are achieved more quickly.
  • The mother has a sense of well-being.
  • The size of the uterus decreases due to the secretion of oxytocin and colostrum is produced more easily.
  • There is a lower incidence of pain during breast engorgement related to the rise in milk after three to four days.
  • The mother experiences a lower level of anxiety.

Long term benefits

Skin-to-skin contact, although it is essential within two hours after delivery, is an exquisite moment between mother and child during the first months of life, as well as during the entire hospital stay in premature babies. Its benefits would be:

  • Greater probability of success and duration of breastfeeding.
  • Reduces the irritability and crying of the baby.
  • It reduces the incidence of apneas and improves weight gain in premature newborns.
  • Strengthens the bond and communication between parents and children.
  • It helps in the emotional alterations of the mother after childbirth.
  • Supports the baby’s immune and neurological system.
  • Emotionally nurture the baby: he feels content, loved and accepted.

Definitely, the benefits of skin-to-skin contact are for all newborns, relating to essential factors for neonatal survival: feeding, temperature regulation and strengthening the mother-infant bond. These arguments are strong enough to facilitate and recommend close contact in all uncomplicated deliveries.

What you should know…

    • If the baby does not require immediate and urgent medical care, putting him on the mother’s naked torso for skin-to-skin contact is one of the most beneficial and pleasurable practices for both that we can offer.
    • There are multiple clinical studies that support the multiple benefits of maintaining close mother-child contact during the first two hours after delivery, whether natural or cesarean.
    • In premature babies, scientific studies describe that babies who receive continuous skin-to-skin contact reduce the incidence of apnea and infections and increase their weight gain.

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