Skin to skin

Skin to skin

Skin to skin is the contact of baby’s bare skin against your bare skin. This is beneficial to both you and your baby straight after birth for at least an hour, known as the ‘golden hour’. The baby should be dried, and a warm blanket wrapped around both of you to maintain thermoregulation.

The benefits of skin to skin are endless. These benefits continue as baby gets older and is a wonderful way of calming and relaxing both you and your baby whilst boosting your milk supply. Research has found that commencing this process immediately after birth helps to regulate baby’s heart rate, temperature and breathing and helps them to adapt to life outside the womb. Baby lying on your bare chest has a thermoregulating function. Therefore, a hat on a baby’s gently dried head immediately after birth is unnecessary and hinders the benefit of you being able to take in the scent of your baby. This unique scent not only promotes bonding but also releases oxytocin (the love hormone) which helps you to deliver your placenta.

Whether you decide to breastfeed or formula feed, the first feed should be offered while baby is having their first experience of skin to skin. Skin to skin will stimulate baby’s digestive system and colonise baby’s skin with your good bacteria which provides protection against infection. This important period after birth should not be interrupted for weighing or basic baby checks. If it’s not possible for you to commence skin to skin straight after birth, this can be commenced by your partner until you are able to take over. If you both don’t get the opportunity to have skin to skin straight after birth, you can make it clear to your midwife that you want to have skin to skin as soon as it is safe to do so. Skin to skin is also vital for babies in the neonatal unit to help promote bonding and support better outcomes for baby, this is known as kangaroo care. If a baby is undergoing any procedures, skin to skin can reduce cortisol (the stress hormone) and increase oxygen saturation.

Safety whilst baby is in skin to skin is paramount. It’s important to recognise any changes in baby’s tone, colour, breathing and temperature and let your midwife know immediately if you have any concerns. Ensure baby is positioned so that airways cannot become obstructed, and that baby is not able to slip under the blankets or onto the floor. If you feel tired or drowsy, it might be safer to let your partner take over with skin to skin whilst you get some rest. There is no specific age when skin to skin should stop, it has powerful benefits throughout the first years of life. Furthermore, there are no time constraints, the longer the better!

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