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Research Proves Skin On Skin Contact With Newborns Helps New Mothers Emotionally

In the past babies and mothers could be separated after birth so that the child could be cleaned up before being held. Recently, however, this practice is changing, and it is becoming more important for mothers to hold their children directly after birth. Many doctors and midwives will place the new baby onto the mother’s chest, bare skin to bare skin following delivery. This allows the baby to acclimatize him or herself to the outside world, while still clinging to the warmth and familiarity of his or her mother. Medical News Today reports: “Because a mother's chest area is warmer than other parts of her body, it prevents her new baby from cooling down, which is a significant health risk. Additionally, being so close to the mother will help the baby pick up some of her skin's friendly bacteria, preventing infection.”

The practice of skin on skin contact directly after birth has also been shown to increase the speed at which new infants will latch and find milk. Studies have shown that infants who are introduced to their mother in this manner deal with less anxiety, which is a positive sign, as heartrate and breathing can be directly affected by stress.

After Delivery

Following the aftermath of the delivery, when the parents and their infant are safely in their room at the hospital, and even once they arrive home, doctors and nurses recommend that mothers and fathers continue skin on skin contact with their child. This means holding them in just a diaper to the mother or father’s bare chest while rocking baby to sleep, reading him or her a story, or while feeding the baby by breast or bottle. The International Breastfeeding Center says: “To appreciate the importance of keeping mother and baby skin to skin for as long as possible in these first few weeks of life (not just at feedings) it might help to understand that a human baby, like any mammal, has a natural habitat: in close contact with the mother (or father). When a baby or any mammal is taken out of this natural habitat, it shows all the physiologic signs of being under significant stress.”

This skin on skin contact not only helps the newborn to feel less stress outside of the womb, but it also helps him or her to bond with the parents. Everything from the smell of a mother’s hair to the touch of her skin can impact the senses of a new baby. Research has also shown that new mothers smell of milk, making close contact with an infant even more of a nurturing sensation for the baby.

Research And Data

There have been a variety of studies which show positive results in terms of close contact after birth, nursing over bottle feeding, and continued skin to skin contact with an infant. The first study of its kind actually appeared in the late 1970’s as doctor began noticing how infants reacted to this close contact treatment. Today’s Parent advises: “The interest in skin-to-skin contact for the littlest of babies started in 1979, when neotatologists Edgar Rey and Hector Martinez, in Bogotá, Colombia, found themselves without enough incubators to care for all the premature babies in their hospital. Instead, they put the tiny babies on their mothers’ bodies and wrapped them in cloth carriers to keep them warm. The babies thrived, and the doctors named their technique, which also included breastfeeding and early discharge, the Kangaroo Mother Method. Later the term was changed to kangaroo mother care.”

New research is constantly being released on the subject of neonatal care and which practices are in the best interest of the baby and mother. Even alternative and holistic birth specialists are embracing the concept of skin to skin care following delivery in an attempt to naturalize the experience for the newborn and minimize the shock of leaving the womb.

Kangaroo Care

Deemed Kangaroo Care by specialists and physicians, the skin on skin method of connecting with a baby after birth is reminiscent of the marsupial species which carries young in bodily pouches. Research has shown that parents can continue this bonding effort well into the baby’s first year through the use of slings and baby carriers which allow mothers and fathers to carry infants close to their chest or back. These carriers allow parents to use two hands to do work around the home, or travel outside, while still keeping the baby close to their body. Using a carrier is best when babies are clothed, and it does not offer the exact same result as direct skin on skin contact, but it has been shown to allow similar feelings of security and nurturing to grow.

Getting Help At Home

If you are interested in learning more about skin on skin contact following delivery, and how you can implement it into your daily life after returning home from the hospital, you can speak to a nurse, doctor, doula, or midwife about the process. Your medical team should be able to offer advice on how to make time for skin to skin contact regularly, and can advise you on when you can discontinue the practice, and simply be close with your child.

There are also support groups among women and parents which meet to discuss things like skin to skin contact, breastfeeding, and other experiences which support the health of new babies. This can provide parents with more information and personal experiences with skin to skin infant and mother interaction.

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