In this article, we’ll take a closer look at why skin-to-skin time is so important for mothers and their babies, including a run-down of all the benefits of skin-to-skin contact!
Continue reading to learn more about skin-to-skin contact.
What is skin-to-skin contact?
When your baby is born, they will be wet and, therefore, can quickly become cold.
Skin-to-skin contact uses your body heat to help to maintain a normal body temperature for your baby, as this is something they’re not able to do well on their own at first.
As your baby is born, they are placed directly onto your tummy, and your midwife will help you dry them, hold your baby close and keep warm with a dry towel or blanket.
How long should mother and baby have skin-to-skin contact?
When starting skin-to-skin with your baby, bear in mind the following:
- It’s best to do skin-to-skin contact for at least one hour.
- If your baby is small, you may be advised to continue this for as long as possible.
- If you’re breastfeeding, you should continue until at least the first feed.
- If you don’t feel up to it, your partner can do skin-to-skin instead.
Why do skin-to-skin contact?
Apart from helping to keep your baby’s body warm in the immediate hours after birth, there are many other benefits of skin-to-skin contact for both the mother and the baby, such as:
- It helps to develop your baby’s microbiome, the skin flora and microbes we all have and need for healthy skin.
- It keeps the baby close to the mother’s breast to help establish breastfeeding.
- Your baby feels safe, so they’re calm and settle more easily as they know your heartbeat, breathing sounds, and the sound of your voice.
- It’s great to promote the hormone oxytocin, which helps the mother and baby bond and can reduce bleeding and help breast milk supply.
Do I need to request it?
Midwives and doctors should always offer skin-to-skin contact as they know and understand the skin-to-skin benefits for mums and babies.
In the unlikely case your baby needs any help with breathing or other treatment after birth, it may not be possible immediately after the birth. However, your midwife will help you to have skin-to-skin contact as soon as they are confident your baby is stable.
What checks need to be done straight away?
There aren’t any routine checks that cannot wait until mum and baby have had a period of skin-to-skin contact. Even weighing the baby can wait for at least 1 hour.
The routine top-to-toe check of the baby can be done while the baby is on your tummy. If there are any concerns about your baby, your midwife or doctor may wish to check the baby over more closely and move the baby to an assessment and treatment area. If you need any checks, these can be done with the baby skin-to-skin.
What if I need a caesarean section?
If you need a C-section, then the priority will always be yours and your baby’s health. As with any operation, there is a risk of infection and those doing the surgery and the area of your body where the operation is taking place will need to be sterile.
If your baby is well and there are no concerns, skin-to-skin contact can still be done. It just takes a bit more planning.
If everything goes smoothly, there’s no reason why skin-to-skin contact can’t be done in the operating theatre.
Here’s how immediate skin-to-skin can be done after a C-section:
- Wear your theatre gown like a dressing gown to easily place the baby onto your skin.
- Let the anaesthetic team know, and they will ensure that all the monitoring equipment needed in the theatre is on your arms or back.
- Your midwife will wear sterile gloves and a gown, or a sterile drape will be placed over the cot for when the surgeon passes your baby after they are born.
- Once your baby is handed to the midwife, it can be placed directly onto your bare chest (this will be fairly high up, though, so they are away from the operation site).
Skin-to-skin contact at home
Skin-to-skin contact is often done immediately after birth, but a baby can benefit enormously from skin-to-skin contact being built into their daily routine.
Daily skin-to-skin contact with babies from their parents can help support their developing skin flora, helping your baby to create their unique microbiome from the people and environment around them.
Combine skin-to-skin time with nap time and let your baby fall asleep against your bare chest.
Skin-to-skin is an essential part of your newborn and growing baby’s care.
From helping to support their temperature and regulate their heart rate to populating their skin flora and helping to develop their microbiome, it should be an essential, not optional, part of the bonding process between parents and their baby.
For more expert tips to help you prepare for the birth of a new baby, be sure to head over to our knowledge hub, where you can find information and guides covering everything you need to know about pregnancy, from conception and fertility to labour and childhood.
Our expert midwives have developed a skincare range for newborns, perfect for protecting their delicate skin. Check out the range today.