What is skin-to-skin contact?  

Skin-to-skin contact is just what it sounds like — time when your baby’s skin is directly on yours. More specifically, it’s when your naked (or almost naked) newborn is placed on your bare chest. This practice, also called kangaroo care, is a powerful bonding process that benefits newborns and parents alike. 

Your first skin-to-skin contact with your baby may happen immediately after you give birth. Typically, after the umbilical cord is cut, the baby is dried off and placed on the birthing parent’s bare chest for an hour or more. A blanket, hospital robe, or shirt can be placed over both parent and baby for extra warmth. While lying on your chest, your newborn may start to relax, look up at you, and instinctively reach for your breast to feed.

Sometimes, the birthing parent may need medical care after the delivery (such as after a cesarean section). If that happens, the non-birthing parent can step in and give the baby their first skin-to-skin contact. Don’t worry! Both parents will have plenty of time to enjoy skin-to-skin contact during feedings and nap times throughout their child’s infancy.

What are the benefits of skin-to-skin contact?

In a nutshell, skin-to-skin contact helps make a newborn’s transition to the world outside of their birthing parent much, much easier. Spending an hour or more in skin-to-skin contact with your baby immediately after delivery can help stabilize their heart rate, lung function, and body temperature. It may also:

  • Help regulate baby’s blood sugar
  • Reduce baby’s crying immediately after birth
  • Transfer immune-boosting good bacteria from parent to baby

Skin-to-skin contact has benefits for both parents too! Think: making breastfeeding easier and jump-starting the parent-child connection you’ll cherish for the rest of your life.

Your first skin-to-skin contact with your baby may happen immediately after you give birth.

Why is skin-to-skin contact so important?

During pregnancy, your body goes above and beyond to care for your baby’s health and development. That doesn’t stop when you give birth – it just looks a little different. During the first few months of your newborn’s life, skin-to-skin contact allows them to draw strength from your body heat while fortifying the bond the two of you share.

Plus, your body releases some pretty powerful hormones during skin-to-skin contact. For both moms and dads, this includes oxytocin (the “love hormone”), which is why skin-to-skin contact is such a great way to bond with your new baby. For birthing parents, another hormone called prolactin is also released during this time, helping your body produce more milk for breastfeeding.

If skin-to-skin contact is important to you and your partner, make sure to tell your healthcare provider before delivery. Things don’t always go as planned in the delivery room, but sharing your birth plan with your medical team can help ensure you get this bonding experience with your baby as soon as possible after giving birth.

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JunoDx.com and the materials and information it contains are not intended to be and do not constitute medical advice, other health advice, or diagnosis.  Do not use JunoDx.com or the materials and information published at JunoDx.com as a substitute for medical care and treatment. You should always consult with a qualified physician or healthcare provider about your specific circumstances.

September 30, 2022 — Stephanie McClintock