Skin to Skin Contact

Skin to Skin important for all babies

During your pregnancy a midwife will have explained the benefits of having skin to skin contact with your baby.

The main benefits are:-

  • It keeps baby warm

  • It calms mum and baby so reduces stress/crying and helps baby feel secure

  • It helps to regulate the babies heart rate and breathing

  • It encourages a close and loving relationship between mother and baby.

  • It reduces the risk of low blood sugar as the baby is warmer and tends to feed earlier as he/she starts to exhibit instinctive feeding behaviours and cues.

  • It helps protect baby by colonising him/her with mums bacteria

  • It boosts a mother’s confidence in handling their baby.

Skin to skin contact is therefore beneficial for both you and your baby, regardless of how you intend to feed your baby.

When baby is born he/she will be dried and placed on your tummy. This will happen as soon as possible after delivery. It may be a good idea to wear an open shirt or remove your clothing so it is easier to initiate skin to skin contact. The baby can then be covered with a warm dry towel. This will help to keep baby warm and to help prevent you feeling exposed. A woolly hat will also be put on the baby’s head for the first 6 hours. This avoids the baby losing excess heat while he/she adjusts to life outside the body.

It is best to weigh baby before skin to skin contact or wait until later when the baby has been fed. Skin to skin contact should continue uninterrupted for as long as you wish. It should go on at least until the baby demonstrates feeding cues and had first feed. You can of course choose to end this contact when you decide. Skin to skin contact is fantastic for dads too, promoting bonding and development. Make the most of this special time with your new baby.

At no other time will you or your baby have such high levels of hormones and natural mothering and nurturing instincts. Your baby, like any mammal, left for a sufficient length of time in a quiet, uninterrupted environment beside its mother will exhibit a set pattern of behaviour. You will be able to talk to your baby, stroke him and examine all his little fingers and toes reassuring yourself that all is well. After a period of time your baby will show signs that he is ready to feed (Feeding Cues). These will include rooting, salivating and lifting and turning his/ her head in search of the breast.

Your midwife in the Delivery suite will offer help to initiate a breastfeed. She will help to position both you and your baby, to ensure a successful attachment at the breast.

Further benefits of skin to skin, if you choose to breastfeed

  • Ensures milk supply is not delayed as feeding gets off to a good start. The sooner you start breastfeeding the better your milk supply will be. This in turn increases the success and duration of your breastfeeding experience.

  • The baby will be colonised with your friendly bacteria which will help build up the baby’s immune system.

  • There will be an increase in the hormone oxytocin. This makes your uterus contract which helps reduce the risk of heavy bleeding following delivery.

  • The hormones that are circulating in your body after a breastfeed counteract the post-delivery adrenaline and thus aid a more restful sleep.

If you are plannng to formula feed your baby, a formula feed of your choice will be given in the labour suite during skin to skin contact. You and your baby have still received all the benefits of having this precious time together immediately after delivery.  Link to Feeding Your Baby

Points to remember

  • Skin to skin contact may not be possible for everyone, e.g. if your baby is unwell or very premature. However skin to skin contact can be introduced gradually as your baby gets better. There are huge benefits of skin to skin for premature babies.

  • If skin to skin is not immediate after delivery, don’t despair - take the opportunity as soon as you and baby are both able - it can recreate the earlier missed opportunity and allow the baby opportunity for his instinctive breast seeking behaviour.

  • Skin to skin can also help to raise the temperature of your baby if he is cold. The heat radiating from your body will bring his temperature up very quickly. Warm towels or blankets to cover you both will prevent over exposure.

  • If you require a caesarean section to deliver your baby we will ensure skin-to-skin contact will be initiated as soon as possible following your operation, this can be in theatre or in the recovery room. As long as your baby is in good health, you will not be separated from your baby at any time. Theatre is an ideal place for dads to initiate skin to skin until mum more available.

  • Skin to skin is useful at anytime in the postnatal period e.g.if your baby is fractious and unsettled. (This is relevant for a formula fed baby too.) The close contact and warmth from your body along with your rhythmic breathing and heart beat comforts and calms him and he feels secure aiding brain development.

  • If your baby is reluctant to either breast or formula feed he will also benefit from skin to skin. Your natural scent and tactile stimulation will help illicit his feeding cues and hopefully prompt him to feed.