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Oh, Baby! Take Your Shirt Off! | Skin-to-Skin

dutchess vbac doula westchesterDwayne The Rock Johnson Skin-to-skinBy now I’m sure you’ve seen the picture of “The Rock” skin-to-skin with his new daughter Tiana. It’s sweet, beautiful, and beneficial. You’ve likely heard about and researched the benefits of immediate skin-to-skin after birth. But did you know that this contact can greatly benefit your baby, yourself, and your partner in the early weeks of life?

Benefits of Skin-to-Skin

    • Babies Cry Less. Babies who have physical contact with their parents cry less. This touch releases hormones that relieve stress, regulate blood sugar, and stabilize breathing, temperature and heart rate. This contact also helps lower stress levels for new moms (and dads!) and can help colostrum, your early milk, flow more freely.
      • Hormones, not extraction, drive your milk supply in the first 3-5 days after birth. Skin-to-skin during this time is more effective at boosting milk supply than pumping for this reason.
    • Cognitive Benefits. A study by Nathalie Maitre of Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Vanderbilt University looked at various brain responses of babies. “Perinatal somatosensory experiences that included skin-to-skin contact appear to be fundamental to long-term healthy brain development.” This held especially true for babies born prematurely.

new dad skin-to-skin

    • Regulation of Body Temperature and Blood Sugar. A newborn cannot regulate their body temperature through sweating and shivering. If a baby is cold, they must expend energy (in the form of blood sugar) to regulate their body temperature. The more energy the baby expends, the lower their blood sugar can potentially drop. Baby can regulate their body temperature more easily when held skin-to-skin with a parent than in an artificial warmer.

baby skin-to-skin with mom Dutchess doulas

  • Better Early Breastfeeding Success and Establishment of a Healthier Microbiome. Holding your new baby close during the first days of life can help baby latch on and breastfeed better; breast milk and amniotic fluid smell similarly. Breastfeeding helps establish healthy gut flora by providing complex sugars to the bacteria that coat the intestines. This not only boosts digestive function, but helps provide protection against pathogens.
    • While vaginal delivery helps to colonize baby’s gut with certain bacteria, skin-to-skin after delivery completes that picture. The bacteria found on the skin of the parents is, naturally, different than those found in the hospital setting.

Additional Reading

G is for Group B Strep

Breastfeeding Basics

Early Breastfeeding – 10 Tips for Success

Referenced Studies

The Dual Nature of Early-Life Experience on Somatosensory Processing in the Human Infant Brain

Influence of Immediate Newborn Care on Infant Adaptation to the Environment

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