Oh, Baby! Take Your Shirt Off!

By 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. While you’ve likely heard about and researched the benefits of immediate skin-to-skin after birth, 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.
      • DID YOU KNOW: In the first 3-5 days after birth, milk supply is hormonally driven, rather than driven by extraction. Skin-to-skin in the first few days of life is more effective at boosting milk supply than pumping for this reason.
    • Cognitive BenefitsĀ – A study by Nathalie Maitre of Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Vanderbilt University looked at various brain responses of babies and found that “baby’s earliest experiences of being touched shape the somatosensory brain scaffolding linked to cognitive, perceptual, and social development.” They concluded that “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.
      • If you want to read the full study, it can be found here.

    • Regulation of Body Temperature and Blood SugarĀ – Immediately after birth, babies have not yet acquired the ability to 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. When a baby is held skin-to-skin with their mother or father, they are able to regulate their body temperature easier (and more effectively than in an artificial warmer!).
      • You can read more about that study here.

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  • Better Early Breastfeeding Success – amniotic fluid and breast milk have similar smells. When a healthy, alert baby is placed skin-to-skin with its mother immediately after delivery, it is not uncommon to witness the “breast crawl” where the baby moves towards the mother’s breast to nurse. In addition to helping baby maintain their body temperature after birth through delaying the first bath it can further promote the successful establishment of breastfeeding.
  • Establishing Baby’s Microbiome – While vaginal delivery helps to colonize baby’s gut with certain bacteria, skin-to-skin after delivery completes that picture, facilitating a more complete range of good bacteria in baby’s microbiome. The bacteria found on the skin of the parents is, naturally, different than those found in the hospital setting.
    • Breastfeeding also helps with the establishment of 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.

 

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