Skin-to-Skin Contact: Essential After Childbirth

Skin-to-skin contact always occurred throughout the history of mankind. However, due to medicalized childbirth care, it’s been neglected. In this article, we explain why and its benefits.
Skin-to-Skin Contact: Essential After Childbirth

Last update: 13 December, 2020

Skin-to-skin contact, also called kangaroo care, should be performed right after delivery. It consists of placing the newborn on the mother’s abdomen or chest. The medical professional can do this even without previously cutting the umbilical cord.

In fact, this practice can also be performed days after birth. It has many benefits, both for the baby’s health and the mother and baby bond. In this article, we’ll explain everything you need to know about this practice.

Skin-to-skin contact

Skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby after birth is something that humanity has done throughout history. It’s almost done unconsciously, as the mother wants to show her affection for, and protect, her newborn.

Childbirth is a complicated situation for the baby, as it ends the state of tranquility and comfort they experienced during the months of gestation. The first contact with their mother can make them feel calm and at peace. Thus, this practice is important.

Although the technique is beneficial in many ways, in reality, many people are unaware of it. Thus, it was performed due to mere instinct. However, as soon as assisted delivery, sometimes called “instrumental delivery”, came into the picture, medical professionals stopped doing it.

A mother holding her newborn.
It’s important to encourage contact right after birth, since the benefits of the technique are immediate.

How to practice skin-to-skin contact with your baby

Skin-to-skin contact consists of placing the newborn on the mother’s chest or abdomen. Medical professionals usually do so without first cutting the umbilical cord. They should place the baby upright, on the mother’s bare chest.

It’s ideal for the baby to also come into contact with the mother’s nipple. However, they don’t need to suck it. This should be done in both vaginal deliveries and Cesarean deliveries (C-sections). Experts recommend maintaining this position for at least an hour.

In fact, it can even be performed the first days of the baby’s life. Thus, it doesn’t have to occur right after delivery. It’s ideal to find the perfect moment throughout the day to enjoy this peaceful time.

The mother should uncover her breast completely and place the baby on it. Also, the mother has to cover both her and the baby with a blanket to avoid altering body temperature regulation. Remember that, at an early age, the organ adaptation system to the surrounding environment is still developing.

This way, it’s likely that both of them will enter a state of calmness. We’re now going to comment on the many benefits of this. However, it’s logical to assume that this degree of intimacy reduces stress. Skin-to-skin contact can even aid the matter of temperature fluctuations we mentioned above, as it’s an adjuvant for homeostasis.

You may like this article: Learn about Childbirth Preparation Classes

The benefits of this technique

Numerous scientists in recent years have studied the benefits of skin-to-skin contact. According to a study published in the Cochrane Library, skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby at birth reduces crying and improves mother‐baby interaction.

Experts state that it significantly increases affective bond between the two. For example, the mother better understands the baby’s signals and communication becomes more fluid. Thus, the mother is able to attend to the baby’s needs.

In fact, according to a review article from the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, it reduces the possibility of postpartum depression. Similarly, it seems that it decreases the days in hospital after delivery.

Another benefit we mentioned above is the regulation of the baby’s temperature. In other words, it helps maintain adequate body homeostasis, which is essential at this stage of life for normal development.

Finally, a Enfermería Universitaria (In English: University Nursing) study states that contact through the skin between women and newborns after birth led to greater initiation of breastfeeding. It also comments that it favors uterine involution and that it reduces the risk of infections, which leads to reduced drug use by women in the postpartum period.

A mother sleeping with her newborn.
Skin-to-skin contact is a technique between mother and baby that benefits their health.

This article may interest you: Women Need a Year to Recover After Childbirth

Skin-to-skin contact whenever possible

Kangaroo care is natural and instinctive at the time of childbirth. Both mother and baby benefit from it. However, it’s true that it has its disadvantages.

A publication in Progresos de obstetricia y ginecología (In English: Progress of Obstetrics and Gynecology) explains that, at that precise moment, complications that put the baby’s life at risk can also occur. For example, the possibility of a compression hot flash. Nevertheless, this technique should be encouraged by improving the preparation of medical teams.

Therefore, if you’re going to have a baby, try to read more about this technique and how to perform it. Also, at the time of birth, enjoy that first contact with your newborn. This way, you can make sure that this first contact with the outside world isn’t traumatic for your newborn.

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