The Importance of Early Skin-to-Skin Contact for Mothers and Their Newborns

Your baby has arrived! What a joyous moment for you both. Your body provided a wonderful, safe haven for your baby for nine months and your baby wants to continue this connection. The best way to provide security and comfort to your baby is through "skin to skin" contact.

What is "Skin to Skin?"

This means that your baby will be placed bare-skinned directly on your chest after birth. The first hours of snuggling skin to skin allow you and your baby to get to know each other. This also gives you and your baby the best start for breastfeeding. Numerous studies have shown that skin-to-skin babies breastfeed better. They also keep nursing an average of six weeks longer. The American Academy of Pediatricians recommends that all breastfeeding babies spend time skin to skin right after birth.

What are the Benefits to My Baby?

In addition to better breastfeeding, the World Health Organization reports that skin-to-skin contact between a mother and her newborn baby immediately after delivery reduces crying, improves mother to infant interaction and keeps baby warmer.

When a naked baby (not swaddled in a blanket) is allowed to nestle against mom's bare chest, the baby's temperature, heart rate and breathing rate are more stable and more normalized. These babies also have lower levels of stress hormones, so they are happier. In addition, skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth exposes the newborn baby to the normal bacteria on mom's skin, which may prevent the baby from getting sick.

Skin-to-skin cuddling may also affect how you relate to your baby. Researchers have watched mothers and infants in the first few days after birth and they noticed skin-to-skin moms touch and cuddle their babies more. Being skin to skin also helps lower your stress and makes you feel more confident as a new parent. These benefits last long after the birth.