Newborn Development: The Great Value of Skin to Skin Contact at Birth

One of the greatest recent break throughs in newborn medicine is the discovery of the massive benefits of skin to skin contact for your newborn directly after birth.  Many hospitals are adapting this wonderful opportunity.  If yours does not, talk to your OB.  Plan ahead to include this contact in the delivery room.  Even if you have a C-section, this is an important step for you and your baby.  In the last six months the Kaiser Foundations Hospitals have begun including skin to skin contact in the delivery room for C-section moms as they are sutured.  JUDY

Over 40 years of research has proven that in the early months of life, Skin-to-Skin contact, also referred to as Kangaroo Care, creates remarkable benefits for you and your baby.  Positioning baby on your bare chest, for an uninterrupted 60 minutes, triggers a hormonal cascade that delivers the following advantages:


Skin-to-Skin contact is a multi-sensory experience. Holding baby on your skin increases the development of essential neural pathways, which accelerates brain maturation. In addition, research shows that kangaroo’ed babies spend more time in quiet sleep, which enhances organizational patterns in the brain and decreases baby’s stress responses.


The direct connection with your skin during Kangaroo Care soothes baby so much that babies’ cortisol levels (stress hormone) are measurably lowered after only 20 minutes of being held Skin-to-Skin. And, remarkably, their pain is reduced when held Skin-to-Skin. As a result, babies who experience regular Kangaroo Care often cry less and appear less agitated.


Maintaining body temperature is essential for young infants who do not yet have the skills to keep themselves warm. Nature takes care of that through a process known as thermoregulation. Within minutes of being held Skin-to-Skin, the mother’s breasts automatically adjust to cool baby down or warm him up, in response to what baby needs. And if you have twins, mom’s breasts can act independently to take care of multiple babies at once.


Development of mature brain function in infants depends on the quality of their sleep cycling. During Kangaroo Care, most infants fall asleep easily, and achieve what is called “Quiet Sleep”, a natural deep sleep for 60 minutes or more. This is important, because research points to Quiet Sleep as one of the most beneficial for accelerating brain patterning and maturation.


Baby’s immune system is stimulated when placed Skin-to-Skin. Mom’s mature immune system passes antibodies through her skin and breast milk to baby. Being on mom’s skin also increases baby’s skin hydration, which provides a protective barrier from harmful bacteria entering baby’s skin.


Kangaroo Care reduces cortisol + somatostatin in babies, allowing for better absorption and digestion of nutrients, while lessening gastrointestinal problems. With a reduction of these hormones, their bodies preserve brown fat (healthy fat babies are born with), helping to maintain birth weight and keep a warm body temperature. As a result, baby’s body does not have to burn its own fat stores to stay warm, resulting in better weight gain. After just one hour of Skin-to-Skin, the infant’s digestive system is restored to the right balance for optimal GI function.

Synchronizes    HEART RATE & BREATHING

Simply put, through Kangaroo Care, baby’s body learns to self-regulate, resulting in a regular and stable heart beat and breathing pattern. 75% of sporadic breathing and slow heart rate episodes are reduced through Skin-to-Skin.


Studies have shown that newborns held Skin-to-Skin immediately after birth are TWICE AS LIKELY to breastfeed within the first hour than swaddled newborns. 60 minutes of Skin-to-Skin increases feeding frequency and raises prolactin levels in mom, a hormone critical for maintaining an adequate milk supply.


These articles provide further information on this exciting topic:

7 Benefits Of Skin-to-Skin Contact After Birth – Mommypotamus

Kangaroo Care: 9 Benefits of Skin-to-Skin Contact


Fathers and skin-to-skin contact – – Kangaroo Mother Care

Uninterrupted Skin-to-Skin Contact Immediately After Birth – Medscape

It Takes Time!!!

One of the first things I realized after becoming a mom was; my time was no longer my own. Everything took so much longer!!!!  It could take a half-hour to get from the house to the car!!!  I would dress, dress baby and he would spit up all over both of us…back to square one.  I would pack the diaper bag and put it in the car with baby and me.   Then remember I had forgotten something important in the house!  I did not want to leave baby alone in the car, so I would carry him back in to the house to grab what I forgot… again!  I felt so inefficient!!

I wish someone had told me to cut myself some slack!!!  Immediately after giving birth you are acquainting yourself with a ‘new normal”.  You are not pregnant any more!  You are healing from the birth process!  You have a new roommate/family member/baby who needs you 24/7!  Daddy is trying to readjust to these many changes…..everything is just different!!!  Allow yourself the time to adapt.

You have been looking forward to becoming  a mom for months, if not years.  Enjoy it!  Give yourself the time you need.  In doula terms, we talk about ‘the fourth trimester’; Allowing yourself three months after the birth of your baby in which to acclimate, planning ahead to thin out the calendar and spend that time getting to know your baby.   In providing yourself the time you need to rest up before you go out to face the world, you take the pressure off you!.  These first days with your baby set the pattern for the future. Make them calm and precious.

More to come………………….JUDY