A mother holding her newborn baby soon after birth is one of the most beautiful things you will witness. But did you know that there’s a good scientific reason that requires mothers to hold their babies soon after birth?
Doctors and parents need to carry out specific practices that ensure a healthy transition of the child from the fetus to the outside world after birth. Skin-to-skin contact is one of these measures. It used to be an ancient practice, lost its relevance in between, and has gained prominence in current times. It is also known as Kangaroo care and is a technique where the baby is held close to their mother’s bare chest. It’s similar to how some marsupials like kangaroos carry their young, hence the name (1).
But does this hold true for mothers who’ve had a C-section too? In case you’re wondering if babies born via C-section also need to be introduced to this essential practice, read on:
What Is Kangaroo Care?
Skin-to-skin contact, as the name suggests, is a parenting practice where a newborn baby is placed on the bare front of the mother. When a youngling is brought in contact with the mother in the early hours of its birth, both mother and child benefit from the intimacy. In case it is a bit too cold to have bare contact, it would be advisable to cover the pair with a blanket. It is best when done immediately or within two or three hours after the birth. This technique is especially beneficial in babies with low birth weight in resource-limited countries (2).
This skin-to-skin contact is also termed Kangaroo care and has incredible benefits for both baby and the mother. Even the dads can practice kangaroo care with their little ones. This practice has been initiated after a lot of research that has shown how skin to skin is better than separating mother and child right after birth (3).
Why Is It So Important?
The first hour in which skin-to-skin contact is done is known as the “sacred hour”. This sacred hour, if utilized best, can be highly beneficial to your child, especially in the case of premature birth. From physical development to establishing an emotional connection, it carries a gamut of benefits for you and your baby (3).
Also, it has become an essential practice to initiate breastfeeding. Skin-to-skin contact is also a great way to make your baby experience a smooth transition from the womb into the world. Being so close to their mother makes them experience the same warmth they had for nine months in the mother’s womb. It’s worth noting that even if the father does this, the effect, to an extent, may be the same — it makes your baby feel safe and secure. As a result, your baby starts doing better in terms of weight gain, oxygen levels, heart rate and demonstrates greater maternal attachment (3).
What Are The Benefits of Skin To Skin Contact?
Kangaroo care or skin-to-skin contact has long-lasting benefits for your baby that can help in their transition from the womb and overall development. Let’s now go into the details of how exactly this can help your baby (2), (3):
1. It Has A Calming Effect On Your Baby
Babies who receive skin-to-skin with mothers display more positive behavior than the babies kept in warmers. They cry less, experience less pain during medical procedures, and feel more relaxed once they are placed skin-to-skin with a parent.
2. It Helps In Maintaining Body Temperature
Mother’s breasts are better capacitated than incubators for stabilizing the baby’s temperature. This works especially with babies in the NICU. Babies experiencing cold and shivers can feel much better after coming in direct contact with the mother as it helps regulate and maintain their body temperature.
3. Helps Initiate Breastfeeding
It is believed that it is essential to feed your baby a few hours after birth. The skin-to-skin practice helps your baby find your breasts easily, considering their proximity to your breasts, which in turn helps you get started with nursing! Thus, kangaroo care helps in a healthier weight gain and stabilizing of the baby’s sugar levels, too!
4. Encourages Breast Milk Production
When you begin to breastfeed your little one, your body produces hormones responsible for milk production. Since skin-to-skin contact facilitates breastfeeding, it may also affect the production and supply of milk.
5. Helps In Developing An Emotional Bond
As you hold your baby close to your chest, you will begin to experience the release of feel-good hormones such as oxytocin and endorphins and a decrease in stress hormones such as cortisol. These feel-good hormones spark the feeling of love and security, which in turn can help develop an emotional bond between you and your baby.
Kangaroo Care For C-Section Mothers: Is It A Possibility?
So we know that skin-to-skin contact after birth is great for both mother and child. But what if you’ve just had a C-section delivery?
When your little one is delivered through C-section, the other parent initiates skin-to-skin contact instead of the mother. This is because, after C-section delivery, you are still in the post-surgical phase, which makes it difficult for you to hold your baby immediately. Even a father’s skin-to-skin contact in the first hour bestows the same health benefits as with the mother, such as temperature adjustment, breathing, and heart rate stability (4).
Yes, your child cannot breastfeed, but they can develop the ability to find breasts when in contact with the other parent. So it’s a win! This is known as learning pre-feeding behavior. If you have already planned for a c-section, it will be better to prepare your partner with the practice of kangaroo care. You can begin with skin-to-skin contact post-surgery once you’ve healed and the doctor gives the go-ahead (3), (4).
Your baby follows a whole sequence during skin-to-skin contact that begins with opening their eyes after relaxing on your chest for some time and ends with falling asleep after breastfeeding. Your baby moves through this gradually, taking one step at a time. Hence, it should be uninterrupted for maximum benefits. The practice needs to be continued even post-discharge. What are your thoughts on this? Let us know in the comments section below!
- Kangaroo care for the preterm infant and family
- Global Neonatal Health
- Understanding kangaroo care and its benefits to preterm infants
- Kangaroo care by fathers and mothers: comparison of physiological and stress responses in preterm infants