Learn the importance of safe skin-to-skin cuddling with your baby.
Safe skin-to-skin cuddling with your newborn has many benefits. Safe skin-to-skin is good for a baby and good for parents. In an ideal situation, skin-to-skin cuddling would not be interrupted for the first two hours after birth.
Helps with breastfeeding/chestfeeding
A baby's feeding instincts depend on being skin-to-skin with their birth parent. Guided by smell, a newborn can crawl up to the breast/chest and begin feeding.
If a parent and baby are separated, research shows it takes longer for babies to latch effectively.
Stabilizes the body systems
Benefits to baby
- Regulates temperature. If a newborn is cool, a parent's skin temperature will rise by two degrees. If a newborn is too warm, a parent's skin will cool by one degree.
- Regulates breathing
- Regulates heart rate
Benefits to birth parent
- Lowers blood pressure and heart rate
- Lowers the stress hormone, Cortisol, and having lower stress hormones helps with wound healing, milk supply and bonding
- Lowers chances to have baby blues and postnatal depression
Develops the brain
The first two hours after birth are a sensitive period where the brain is ready to make lots of connections.
At birth, smell and touch are important sensory needs. Skin-to-skin cuddling meets these needs and helps baby make good brain connections that have a lifelong effect on learning and behaviour.
When a baby is separated from their parents, they may have higher stress, lower temperature and heart rate.
Builds emotional bonds
Voice, touch and movement are all important for emotional development.
- Promotes powerful attachment behaviour, which helps get parenting off to a good start
- Causes hormonal changes and increased care-giving behaviours in both parents
- Promotes self confidence and improved social relationships later in life
How to do skin-to-skin safely
- Sit or lay slightly upright, in a comfortable position
- Turn your baby's face to one side in a position that allows baby to breathe easily
- Make sure you can see your baby's nose and mouth
- Tuck baby's legs up and bring their hands up near baby's face
- Cover your baby's back with a thin blanket
- Let your baby stay on your chest for as long as possible while you are awake
If you have any questions about safe skin-to-skin, ask your baby's nurse.