According to World Health Organization, as soon as the baby is born, newborns should have ‘skin-to-skin’ contact with the mother’s breast or abdomen for at least an hour. This method offers many benefits such as increasing the rate of breastfeeding and prolonging breastfeeding time.
The skin-to-skin contact is when the baby is placed naked on the mother’s bare breast or stomach. The baby’s face, chest, abdomen, and legs are close to the mother’s bare skin without any space. The baby can wear diapers and a hat. The baby’s head tilted to one side, and the body is covered with a warm blanket.
This method should be performed continuously for at least 1 hour immediately after birth and repeated as often as possible in the early weeks. In case of the cesarean, the skin-to-skin contact should be made as soon as the mother is awake and able to respond to the surrounding.
More than the last four decades, research has shown that in the early months of life, skin-to-skin contact, or Kangaroo care method, has significant benefits for both mothers and babies.
More and more obstetric centers around the world apply this method. According to the statistics of US in 2009, there was 43 percent of hospitals in the country applying a skin-to-skin policy within 1 hour after ordinary birth without complications and 32 percent of hospitals adopting this policy for mothers and infants within 2 hours after uncomplicated cesarean section.
The skin-to-skin contact is a great way for mums and babies to recover from an arduous journey filled with emotion, and it is a powerful way of connecting maternal love and encouraging the baby to start breastfeeding. There is a great deal of evidence to show that the great benefit of ‘skin-to-skin’ contact between mother and child. The followings are seven reasons to be skin-to-skin with your baby after birth.
1. Regulate Body Temperature, Heart Rate, Breathing Rate, And Blood Glucose
Maintaining body temperature is of paramount importance for newborns. The transition from the warm environment in the uterus to the cold outside environment, plus wet skin, makes the baby very susceptible to cold. Luckily, the creator has programmed to take care of this. The mother’s breast is much warmer than the rest of the body, and within minutes of the skin-to-skin contact, the breast will adjust itself to warm or cool the baby, depending on the needs of the child.
If a mother has twins, her breasts can react independently to both babies. A study conducted in the women who had a cesarean section showed that children whose skin was raised by their father had a higher body temperature and blood glucose levels than those placed in incubators. The skin-to-skin approach also helps the baby learn to adjust itself, stabilise basic biological indicators such as heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar.
2. Reduce Crying And Stress
A 20-minute skin-to-skin exposure has shown to reduce 67-72% of cortisol levels in the baby’s body. This contact also helps the baby quickly recover from pain after the birth. As a result, babies who are cared for in this way are less likely to cry and less stressed.
3. Protect The Baby From The Detriment Of Separation From The Mother
If separated from the mothers at birth, all mammals have the same reaction: ‘protest’ and ‘despair.’ At first, the little animal ‘protested’ with a loud cry and wiggle. This is an instinctive response when they are pushed away from the natural habitat, where they are fed, warmed and feels safe. Crying and wiggling are the objections of the child to attract the attention of the mother and to be close to the mother.
If mothers and babies are isolated for a long period, the next response of small animals will be ‘desperate.’ It can stop crying, stop wiggling and lie down – they have surrendered. This is also an instinct to avoid catching the attention of predators. At this point, all organ systems slow down to survive long. Body heat, heart rate, and metabolic rate decrease. Similar instincts have also been observed in infants.
When pushed out of the habitat next to the mother, at first the baby will protest. The study found that children who were isolated from their mothers had more than ten times more crying and 40 times longer crying than those who were skin-to-skin with their mother. Long crying is not good for babies since it can affect lung function, increase intracranial pressure, and increase stress hormone. If not satisfied and separated for a long time, the baby will move to a despairing stage.
When this stress hormones massively increase, body temperature, heart rate, and blood sugar decrease. All these complications are common in the baby who has been isolated from their mothers, even when they are taken care of at an emergency department. Research has also shown that prolonged isolation between mothers and their children can affect the social development and the development of children’s emotions later.
4. Facilitate The Optimal Development Of The Brain
At birth, the brain of a child is not fully mature and is about the size of 25% of adults. Skin-to-skin exposure is an experience that requires the involvement of many sensory organs. This exposure helps to develop neurotransmitters that are essential for the maturation of the brain. The skin-to-skin exposure also promotes the growth of glands deep in the brain. These glands involve the process of the formation of emotion and memory, as well as activation of the sympathetic nervous system. Furthermore, during the skin-to-skin
contact with the mother, most babies fall asleep easily and achieve a deep sleeping state of 60 minutes or more. This is very important because deep sleep is one of the most favorable factors to accelerate the maturation of the brain.
5. Stimulate Digestion And Help Your Baby Gain Weight
After only one hour of skin-to-skin contact, the baby’s digestive system has been restored to the optimum balance. The vagus is activated, leading to an increase in the size of the microtubules in the neonate. As a result, the area of the intestinal surface increased and nutrient uptake was improved. The skin-to-skin approach also reduces the cortisol and somatostatin levels in the baby, enabling the baby to absorb and digest food better, with fewer digestive disorders. Consequently, the baby will gain weight faster.
6. Strengthen The Immune System
The skin-to-skin approach helps the baby to acquire the familiar bacteria from the mother’s skin. This is not dangerous because babies have already received these antibodies against most of these bacteria right from the womb. Next, the mother’s body will produce antibodies against the bacteria in the environment of both mother and child.
These antibodies are passed to the baby through breast milk, which helps protect them from infections. The occupation of the mother’s familiar bacteria on the baby’s body also causes strange bacteria and viruses appearing in the birth environment to have few opportunities for penetration. This is especially important for cesareans because the baby are not exposed to healthy bacteria in the mother’s genital tract – an important first step for the function of the immune system.
7. Increase The Rates Of Breastfeeding And Breastfeeding Time
Skin-to-skin contact helps to initiate breast-seeking behaviour. Your baby will suck more and more accurately. Research shows that the rate of breastfeeding in the first time after birth doubles if the baby experiences skin-to-skin contact immediately instead of being wrapped in diapers. Mothers who practice skin-to-skin care from the beginning often continue to breastfeed more when they return home.
Besides, the increase in maternal oxytocin hormones and prolactin in the early hours helps to increase milk production in the long run. The mothers who have difficulty in breastfeeding often get near-instant improvement by practicing skin-to-skin contact for at least 60 minutes each time, 1-2 times a day. A study of 1250 infants in Poland for three years showed that skin-to-skin contact increased the duration of exclusive breastfeeding by 0.39 months and general breastfeeding of 1.43 month.
The baby kept skin-to-skin contact at least 20 minutes will totally breastfeed longer 1.35 months and experience weaning 2.1 months later than those who do not have immediate skin-to-skin contact with the mother immediately after birth.
The importance of skin-to-skin contact is different among the periods.
* 0-90 minutes after birth: important for the development of the baby’s brain
* 0-6 hours after birth: help to stable breathing rate and heart rate during restoring period
* 6-24 hours after birth: help to set breastfeeding schedule and stable sleeping cycle
* 12h-8 weeks after birth: consolidate a strong attachment between the mother and baby
It is a miracle, isn’t it? After knowing the wonderful benefits of skin-to-skin contact between the mother and baby, you can understand more why the word “mother” is the most beautiful one, and maternal love is the most divine in the planet. Hoping that after finishing the post, parents will know more tips to take care their children in the best way and avoid regretful complications right after birth
Great article from our Guest Author Emily Pham
This guest post is by Emily Pham, a blogger with many years of experience in searching the best natural home remedies for beauty and health issues