The Case for Skin to Skin Care
Skin to skin contact is one of the things that makes me really pumped up. Babies do better when they are skin to skin with their parent, birthing persons do better when they are skin to skin with baby. Yet, it’s still really common place to see parents and baby separated following birth! So, let’s talk about the wonders of skin to skin. The more birthing persons who ask for it, the more it becomes the norm.
What is Skin to Skin?
- Skin to Skin care:
Continuous contact of a new parent and their baby skin to skin with only a diaper in between. Contact should be started within 30 minutes (preferably 10 minutes) of birth and continue as long as possible.
Kangaroo Mother Care:
Often used in describing premie care, this involves continuous skin to skin contact as stated above, access to the nipple to promote exclusive breastfeeding and support for new parent and baby together. Leading experts in the field recommend 20 hours/day of skin to skin contact for all infants, but especially for premies.
Why skin to skin?
- Helps your baby maintain their temperature better than an incubator
- Baby maintains stable blood sugar
- Baby is less stressed, cries less and painful procedures hurt less
- Increases your chances of exclusively breastfeeding
- Improves baby’s oxygenation
- Earlier discharge from hospital
- Fewer apneas
- Better controlled heart rate
- Baby is more alert and reactive
- Better parent-baby relationship
These are impressive! Even more impressive, all of these are true in low birth weight, preterm infants !
How can I get in on this?
Unfortunately, this is another instance where birthing persons have to advocate for themselves. Make sure your care provider and your doula know that you want immediate skin to skin with your baby. There are very few instances where you and baby actually need to be separated right after birth. So, state clearly that you want your little one placed on your chest immediately (this goes for C-sections too!).
Ask if recommended procedures can be done skin to skin, chances are they can! APGAR assessments, heal pricks, vitamin K shots and eye ointment- all of these can be done skin to skin. Even a CPAP and suctioning can be done this way.
Ask your care provider to wait to weigh your baby. At least, wait until after the two of you have established breastfeeding. This gives you and baby a chance to bond and for your fierce maternal instinct to kick in.
Get your partner in on it. It’s important to maintain skin to skin contact for the first few days of life. This means that your support team will have to pick up a lot of work- meal prep, doing dishes, cleaning and entertaining any guests that might come around. Your birth partner can also be the skin in skin to skin care whenever you need a break.
Get good at baby wearing. Find a store near you that has trained staff who can help you find a carrier that works for you. Then wear your baby! Bonus points if you are naked under the carrier.
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This article is meant to provide information only, it does not substitute for personalized medical care.
 Bera, Alpanamayi et al. “Effect Of Kangaroo Mother Care On Vital Physiological Parameters Of The Low Birth Weight Newborn”. Indian Journal of Community Medicine 39.4 (2014): 245. Web.