Skin to skin cuddles are arguably one of the best experiences with a newborn. Who wouldn’t love holding your baby against your skin, snuggled in blankets? Also referred to as ‘Kangaroo Care’, in the minutes following childbirth – provided there are no complications – your midwife will place your baby on your chest. More than just a cuddle, skin to skin contact is a powerful way of helping mums and babies’ bond, but it also has a number of other amazing benefits:
Feeling calm and safe
Research has found that just 10 minutes of skin-to-skin contact can reduce a baby’s level of the stress hormone cortisol and increase the level of oxytocin – the ‘love hormone’ – making babies feel calm and safe. Skin to skin contact also helps to regulate your baby’s heart rate and breathing, also helping to generate a sense of calm.
Adapting to life outside the womb
Newborn babies can struggle to regulate their temperature – particularly if they’re pre-term. This is partly due to the fact that the experience is new – ie hey didn’t need to regulate their temperature in the womb. Your skin is the same temperature as the womb, so placing your baby on your chest will help to adapt to the new environment.
Making breastfeeding a little easier
You know the ‘head bob’ that newborns get when they’re being cuddled by their mum? Newborn bubs have a heightened sense of smell and when lying on their mum, the smell of milk to them is really strong. Skin to skin contact will help your baby learn to seek out the nipple and begin breastfeeding.
Research has found that babies who have skin-to-skin contact will generally cry less than those who are separated from their mother. The newborn cry is often referred to as a “separation distress call” and is a mammalian reflux used to call a mother back to their young.
Transfer of good bacteria
Building up the good bacteria in your baby is really important. Why? Babies are born with very limited microbiome and an immature immune system. The first microbes to colonize a baby’s gut, skin and mouth help teach the immune system what’s harmful and what’s not. While the transfer of good bacteria occurs in vaginal birth, another way is through skin-to-skin contact.