Skin-to-Skin Contact: Why, and How?
Many of us know Skin-to-skin contact (SSC) as ‘Kangaroo Care’ or ‘Kangaroo Mother Care’. It involves a process in which the baby is placed on the bare chest of the mother, and usually occurs immediately after birth.
SSC is most important in the first days and weeks of a newborn’s life but there is no age when it is no longer recommended. We refer to it as a space in which the baby can develop mentally and bond emotionally. It is a safe place to bond without separation and is not limited to mothers alone. Fathers are also known to take part in the process to stimulate an emotional bond with his baby.
Public Health Physician, Dr. Nils Bergman, explains that when the baby is in SSC with its mother, a natural process unfolds.
The process stimulates a specific part of the newborn brain in two ways:
- The first of which is that the baby will naturally search for the mother’s breast to feed on. This step enables the baby to continue physically developing through this stimulation.
- Secondly, the baby will open its eyes and gaze up at its mother which allows an emotional and social development to take place.
Dr. Bergman explains that “the mother’s body is the baby’s natural habitat, the place where development happens.”
Your baby faces a certain amount of “positive stress” during the process of labour. This means that it is exposed to a brief and low level of stress that allows it to become resilient. The importance of SSC is upmost at this stage in making sure that stress levels are regulated.
Preterm newborns are prone to struggle with this process which makes SSC even more vital; the more preterm your baby is the more SSC is needed.
The advantages of skin-to-skin contact are:
- It stabilizes baby’s temperature.
- It soothes baby’s breathing.
- Elevates baby’s blood sugar.
- The baby is exposed to good bacteria from the mother.
- It makes the baby more alert to its environment.
- It helps the baby search for mother’s breast to feed.
- Encourages the baby to latch on better.
- Breastfeeding is likely to be more successful.
- Helps the mother bond with her baby.
- The baby’s kicking helps contract the mother’s uterus.
When a baby has skin-to-skin contact with its mother, Bergman says, a natural process unfolds- “It stimulates a specific part of the newborn brain, so that two things happen. The baby will move to the breast, self-attach and feed, and secondly, the baby will open his eyes and gaze at his mother.”
The first step (getting milk) allows the baby to continue developing physically, while the second step ensures emotional and social development. “The mother’s body is the baby’s natural habitat, the place where development happens,” Dr. Bergman adds.
How to do this:
- You (the mother) should be in a reclining position- lying on your back.
- Gently dry your baby with a warm towel.
- Place your naked baby on your chest- if you’re fussy, nappies are allowed.
- Your baby can be covered with a blanket.
- Be calm- you and your baby will find your way.
- Generally babies will latch on after 50-60 minutes.
Watch the video The breast crawl video www.breastcrawl.org