Skin-to-skin contact, also known as "kangaroo care," is the practice of holding a newborn against the bare skin of a parent, usually on the chest. This simple, yet powerful practice has numerous benefits for both the parent and the newborn.
One of the most well-known benefits of skin-to-skin contact is that it helps regulate the newborn's temperature, heart rate, and breathing. When a newborn is placed skin-to-skin with a parent, their body temperature, heart rate, and breathing rate all tend to stabilize and become more regular. This is especially important for premature infants, who may have difficulty regulating their own body temperature and vital signs.
Skin-to-skin contact also promotes bonding between the parent and the newborn. The close physical contact, combined with the release of oxytocin (a hormone that promotes bonding and attachment) in both the parent and the newborn, can lead to a strong emotional connection between the two. This bond can be especially important for fathers, who may not have as much opportunity to bond with their newborns in the early days due to the demands of breastfeeding and other infant care tasks.
In addition to promoting bonding and attachment, skin-to-skin contact can also have a number of other benefits for both the parent and the newborn. For example:
It can reduce stress and anxiety in both the parent and the newborn. The close physical contact, combined with the release of oxytocin, can have a calming effect on both the parent and the newborn.
It can promote breastfeeding and improve milk production. When a newborn is placed skin-to-skin with a parent, they are more likely to latch on to the breast and begin breastfeeding. This is because the close physical contact, combined with the release of oxytocin, can stimulate milk production and make it easier for the newborn to find and latch onto the breast.
It can help the newborn sleep better. Newborns who are held skin-to-skin tend to sleep more soundly and for longer periods of time. This is likely due to the calming effect of the close physical contact and the release of oxytocin.
Overall, skin-to-skin contact is a simple, yet powerful practice that can have numerous benefits for both the parent and the newborn. Whether you are a new mother or father, or an experienced parent, giving your newborn the gift of skin-to-skin contact can be a wonderful way to bond and promote the health and well-being of your little one.