Childrearing

What Is Skin-to-Skin and Why Is Everyone Talking About It?

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Prior to having a baby, you may hear a lot of new terms that you might have never heard before. Take, for example, the term skin-to-skin, which is used somewhat frequently in baby books, birthing classes, and in hospitals. And if you have a baby in the NICU, it’s a term you end up hearing even more. But what is skin-to-skin exactly? How is it done? Who should do it, and who benefits, and why? How long should it be done for? Are there any downsides to it? If you’ve ever wondered any of these questions, we’ve got them all answered right here.

What Is Skin-to-Skin?

According to the Cleveland Clinic, skin-to-skin (also referred to as kangaroo care) simply means that your newborn baby will be placed on your bare chest directly after birth. Your doctor or care provider might wipe the baby down and cover them with a warm blanket prior to doing so, although plenty of mamas (especially home birthing ones) bring them directly to their chests sans cleaning off. Either way, those first skin-to-skin moments can be magical.

What Are the Benefits?

But doctors don’t really focus on the magic, so much as on the proven medical benefits, of which there are many. The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees that practicing skin-to-skin immediately after birth (and even long after) can help babies regulate their temperatures better, keep them calmer (which results in less crying), and can even aid in healthier blood sugar levels.

Research has revealed that moms who practice kangaroo care early snuggle more with their babies, and these frequent cuddles last well into the child’s first birthday. Additionally, studies have proven that babies who enjoyed skin-to-skin breastfeed more successfully. Babies given kangaroo care nurse an average of six weeks longer than those who don’t.

Can Other Caregivers Do It, Too?

Dads, non-biological moms, and other parents can certainly participate in skin-to-skin contact. While the baby may benefit more from kangaroo care with their mother (since it can increase milk supplies for mom, and because breasts specifically can help regulate the baby’s temperature), skin-to-skin with dad is also beneficial. Kangaroo care is especially beneficial to NICU babies (those born premature or with other health problems), and has been shown to result in faster weight gain, better oxygen saturation levels, stabilization of the baby’s heart rate, and earlier hospital discharge dates.

Basically, if it’s possible for you and your baby, skin-to-skin care is incredibly beneficial for all. Plus, as a former NICU mom, I can tell you—there’s no better feeling.

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(Image: Pixabay / nguyenbaqua)