A Simple Touch, So Many Benefits
By: OB Director Maria Kinney, RN
There are no words to describe how special it is the first time you meet your newborn baby. It’s in these moments that the bond with your baby begins.
“What mothers and babies need most after birth is each other,” said OB Director Maria Kinney, who came to Boone County Health Center in June of 2017. “From a healthcare standpoint, skin-to-skin contact isn’t just a great time to bond, it’s actually essential to your baby’s health as he moves from the womb to the world.”
Skin-to-skin contact will help your baby with:
Adapting body temperature. In the womb, babies don’t have to regulate their body temperature. The warmth of your skin, which is the same temperature as the womb, helps make it easier for your baby to adapt.
Heart and lung function. A lot happens in a baby’s body as they prepare to take their first breath. When a baby is held skin-to-skin right after birth, their heart and breathing rates tend to be more normal and stable. This may be because the mother’s heartbeat and breathing are familiar to the baby.
Breastfeeding. Babies have a heightened sense of smell. If a baby is close to his mother, natural instinct will kick in to help him locate, latch on and breastfeed for the first time. Also, when you are near your baby, it helps balance hormones that regulate lactation so you produce more milk.
Good bacteria. When a baby is born vaginally, they are exposed to good bacteria that can help with digestion. Another way for your baby to get this good bacteria is through skin-to-skin contact.
Crying less. When a baby feels the comfort of a mother’s touch, he is less likely to cry.
Relief from pain. Skin-to-skin contact can relieve your baby’s pain during a heel stick or other procedure. The longer the skin-to-skin contact lasts, the better the relief of pain.
Communication. When your baby is close, you naturally start to pick up on their signs of hunger, fullness and discomfort sooner. This can boost your confidence as a parent as well as your baby’s sense of trust. Touch allows both you and your baby to use all your instincts.
Better sleep. Because of all the benefits of skin-to-skin contact, babies have lower stress as they adjust to the world around them. This leads to deep sleep and babies wake up less often.
Development. When a baby is warm, well fed and rested, they can put all their energy into growth and brain development.
It’s important for the father to have skin-to-skin contact with the baby as well. A baby recognizes his father’s voice from hearing it so often in the womb, and gets the benefits of the skin-to-skin contact too.
Skin-to-skin contact can help both mother and father to feel more confident in parenting. It can also ease symptoms of postpartum depression and help with anxiety. The power of touch is good for your baby-and good for you too!