Whether you’re new to babies and parenthood or a seasoned professional, sooner or later you’ll hear about skin-to-skin or kangaroo care. So-called because of its resemblance to the way kangaroo mamas look after their joeys, scientists are proving what we have known instinctively for centuries: that skin touch is important.
What is skin-to-skin?
Exactly what it says on the box. Baby is stripped down to their nappy and the adult removes their top to place the baby on their chest. It’s an extremely natural position and your baby is close enough to kiss.
What are the benefits for your baby?
There are so many! There are biological benefits, like helping to regulate your baby’s temperature and respiration and increasing the ease and length of breastfeeding. But it also helps to release and suppress certain hormones.
For example, just 10 minutes spent skin-to-skin has been shown to reduce cortisol levels in babies. And less cortisol — that’s the stress hormone — means more sleep! It even helps to reduce pain levels in babies, which comes in handy throughout the vaccination years.
Are there any benefits for the parent?
Look, we’d probably do it anyway for the benefits to the baby, but cheerfully, there are loads of benefits for the parents too! Both parents can benefit from skin-to-skin with their new baby.
Kangaroo care is shown to increase Oxytocin levels in both parents and babies, which is the hormone used for bonding and cuddling. In also increases dopamine levels, known popularly as the ‘happy hormone’, while also reducing cortisol levels in the parents.
For moms, skin-to-skin also helps to regulate the hormones needed for lactation, making breastfeeding easier and more pleasurable for mom. Interestingly, female breast tissue has been shown to either warm up or cool down, depending on what the baby needs, whereas men can only warm the baby.
As far as research can gather, none at all! Just be sure that baby’s airways are open at all times, and the baby hasn’t slumped down your chest. If the air is cool, use a soft blanket to cover both the baby and yourself, and relax into it.
In fact, skin-to-skin has even been shown to be helpful in infant adoptions. It helps to stimulate and deepen parent-infant bonding, producing many of the same hormones as it does in biological relationships.
How long should we spend doing skin-to-skin?
As little as 10 minutes has benefits, but it’s one of those things that just doesn’t become useless especially in baby’s early days. If you can, it would be ideal to spend the bulk of your baby’s first days or weeks earth-side close to one of their parents’ skin. If that’s not practical, experts recommend doing it at least around feedings, or about an hour per day.
Sure, it might not feel very productive, but when you think about all the amazing work this simple act is having behind the scenes, we reckon it’s worth every minute spent doing it.
- This Study Shows Just How Important It Is For Dads To Participate In Skin-To-Skin: https://www.romper.com/p/this-study-shows-just-how-important-it-is-for-dads-to-participate-in-skin-to-skin-12152623
- How to Bond With Your Baby After Infant Adoption: https://blog.lifetimeadoption.com/adoptivefamilies/bonding-with-baby-after-infant-adoption
- Benefits of skin-to-skin contact between dad and baby: https://nuroobaby.com/skin-to-skin/the-benefits-of-skin-to-skin-contact-between-dad-baby/
- 10 benefits of skin-to-skin contact: https://babygooroo.com/articles/10-benefits-of-skin-to-skin-contact
- Kangaroo Care: The Benefits of Skin-to-Skin Contact: https://www.parents.com/baby/care/newborn/kangaroo-care-the-importance-of-a-parents-touch/