by Natalie Broders, Portland Birth Photographer
Skin to skin: WHY is it important immediately after birth?
Did you know that immediate skin to skin is one of the most effective methods for promoting exclusive breastfeeding short AND long term?
Skin to skin contact:
- promotes bonding between mother and baby
- Helps baby maintain body temperature better than a warmer
- Helps regulate baby’s breathing and heart rate
- Reduces postpartum hemorrhage in mother
- Can reduce maternal stress and postpartum depression
- Increases probability of breastfeeding short and long term
The mother’s body is the baby’s habitat. During the first few weeks skin to skin can be done often or even continuously.
There is NO AGE at which skin to skin is no longer recommended!
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.
When the baby is in skin-to-skin contact with his mother, Bergman says, a natural process unfolds. “It stimulates a specific part of the newborn brain, so that two things happen. The baby will move to the breast, self-attach and feed; and secondly, the baby will open his eyes and gaze at his mother,” he says. The first step (getting milk) allows the baby to continue developing physically, while the second step ensures emotional and social development. “The mother’s body is the baby’s natural habitat, the place where development happens,” he adds.
For dads, time spent with and caring for baby helps the bonding process. But skin to skin actually rewires his brain!
When dad spends time skin to skin with his newborn hormonal changes occur including a rise in dopamine and oxytocin.
A rise in dopamine plus the release of oxytocin means dad’s brain creates a positive association with close interaction with baby. It seems that skin to skin with dad can help dad’s natural parenting instincts to kick in!