Benefits of Skin-to-Skin

Skin to skin contact (SSC) between a baby and its mother is very important and should start as soon after delivery as possible. The World Health Organization recommends that mother and baby remain together after birth with direct SSC unless separation is medically necessary. (1)

Better Sleep

Skin-to-skin contact helps infants fall asleep more easily and also sleep for a longer period of time. This allows the new mother to get more rest and reduce stress levels. (2)

Temperature Regulation

Immediate skin to skin contact is the best way for a new baby to maintain a stable body temperature.  Although the popular practice of  swaddling is often recommended, research has shown that babies who are skin to skin with their mother are much more likely to have a stable body temperature. (3)

Breathing Regulation

Skin to skin contact has been shown to increases oxygen saturation levels and help stabilize breathing rates in both term and preterm newborns. (4)

Pain Relief

Skin to skin contact has been shown to have analgesic properties for both preterm and healthy term infants. Babies who receive SSC during painful tests, such as heel pricks, respond with less grimacing, crying and a less dramatic increase in heart rate. (5,6)

Immune System Development

Babies who receive SSC after birth are more likely to breastfeed successfully, which helps build a strong immune system. (7) In addition SSC immediately after birth allows the baby’s skin and gut to be colonized by its mother’s bacteria instead of foreign bacteria. (8)

Brain Development

During the first few months of life, a baby’s brain is rapidly developing connections between nerve cells, called synapses. This “wiring” of the brain creates neural pathways which allow messages to be sent throughout the body. (4) During the first 8 weeks of life neural pathways are forming at a rapid pace. Pathways that are frequently used continue to strengthen, while those which are not stimulated die off. Skin to skin contact as well as verbal communication between mother and baby allows for healthy development of the brain. Research has shown that extended SSC has a positive effect on both perceptual-cognitive and motor development in infants. (4,8)

Calming Effect

SSC reduces crying and has a calming effect on babies. It also provides the mother and baby opportunities to bond and interact. (4, 11)

Research has shown that separation of a baby from its mother causes the newborn stress,  which in turn increases the production and secretion of stress related hormones. These hormones have a negative impact on the stability of the newborn, as well as its growth and development. SSC provides the ideal environment for the newborn and decreases the baby’s stress level. (4) 

A special thank you to Carolyn Sinclair RM, Co-Founder of Fifty-Seven


REFERENCES: 1. World Health Organization. Postpartum Care of the Mother and Newborn: A Practical Guide. 1998. reproductive-health/publications/msm_98_3/ postpartum_care_mother_newborn.pdf Accessed January 2008. 2. 3. Dabrowski GA. Skin-to-Skin Contact: Giving Birth Back to Mothers and Babies. Nursing for Women's Health. 2007, 11 (1): 64–71. 4. Olanders M. Kangaroo Mother Care. An Interview with Dr. Nils Bergman. http:// berg.html. Accessed January 2008. 5. Ludington-Hoe, Susan M, Hosseini R, Torowicz, Deborah L. Skin-to-Skin Contact (Kangaroo Care) Analgesia for Preterm Infant Heel Stick. Advanced Practice in Acute & Critical Care. Pain Management. 2005, 16(3): 373-387. 6. Gray L, Watt L & Blass E.M. Skin-to-Skin Contact Is Analgesic in Healthy Newborns. Pediatrics. 2000, 105 (14) 7. Zetterstrom R. Initiation of Breastfeeding. Acta Paediatrica Supplement. 2003, 441. 8. Odent M. The First Hour Following Birth. Midwifery Today, 2002, 61. 9. Feldman R, Eidelman AI, Sirota L & Weller A. Comparison of Skin-to-Skin (Kangaroo) and Traditional Care: Parenting Outcomes and Preterm Infant Development. Pediatrics.  2002, 110: 16-26. 10. Mizuno K , Mizuno N, Shinohara T & Noda M. Mother-Infant Skin-to-Skin Contact After Delivery Results in Early Recognition of own Mother's Milk Odour. Acta Paediatrica. 2004, 93: 1640-1645. 11.Moore ER, Anderson GC & Bergman N. Early skin-to-skin contact for mothers and their healthy newborn infants. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2007, 3. 12.Hurst N, Valentine C, Renfro L, et al.  Skin-to-skin holding in the neonatal intensive care unit influences maternal milk volume. Journal of Perinatology. 1997, 17(3):213-7.