These days, we are connected to the world. You can chat with your friend who lives on the other side of the globe, shop for rare items in distant places, read the goings-on in your country, and listen to music – all at the same time – from a device small enough to lose in your purse. Despite our boundless technology, though, there is one age-old truth that no amount of ingenuity can replace: The power of human touch.
While the health benefits of a simple hug are well known, what is only more recently reemerging is the impact that touch has on babies. From the moment we arrive on this planet, the most important aspect of our development, adaption, and very survival can be reduced down to the simple feeling of skin-to-skin contact. This is especially influential for Happy Feeding™ and Happy Sleeping™.
What is the Skin-to-Skin Contact Approach?
When you hear the term, you might picture holding your naked baby in your arms, and while that is sure to make them feel warm and cozy, there’s a bit more to the skin-to-skin approach than that. In fact, for premature or at-risk newborns, there is a dedicated technique called Kangaroo care.
For the full-term baby, it typically works like this: You lay on your back, slightly propped, and place baby on your bare chest. They have only a diaper on, so keep them warm by covering their body with a blanket. Make sure you can always see their face to help read their comfortability cues, and that their nose and mouth stay uncovered. Then simply relax and enjoy the bonding time between you and your sweet one.
You can do this when baby is born and throughout at least the first three months of their life, for at least an hour at a time for mom. For dad, it’s not recommended to do skin-to-skin beyond one hour. This is because mom’s breasts have regulating properties that adapt to help baby’s temperature remain stable, while dad’s chest does a great job at warming baby up. The downside? They can get overheated when spending too long laying on dad.
Skin-to-Skin Benefits Everyone
There are so many benefits of skin-to-skin contact for baby, mom, and dad. For babies, this includes lowering cortisol levels to aid in stress reduction, as well as pain reduction that can lessen crying and agitation. Skin-to-skin also enhances baby’s immune system, as antibodies are passed from parent to baby through touch. You can even help keep baby’s skin hydrated through skin-to-skin.
Happy Feeding™ and Happy Sleeping™ for Baby
Two other key benefits of skin-to-skin with baby include improving their feeding and sleeping skills and habits.
Not only does this approach help baby better absorb and digest nutrients, skin-to-skin also has shown to decrease gastrointestinal problems. In just one hour, your little one’s digestive system balances out and better functions. That means they can preserve their own baby fat stores, which lets them maintain birth weight and keeps their tiny bodies warm. This way, they don’t burn their fat stores so quickly, which allows them to better gain weight.
Babies who begin life with, and continue to experience, skin-to-skin contact have more success with breastfeeding. Those with latching problems or even a range of other common breastfeeding problems were observed to be more effective at breastfeeding after skin-to-skin contact. In turn, mom may experience an increased milk production.
Improves Bottle Feeding Experience
When bottle feeding baby during a skin-to-skin moment, parents experienced a better feeding time for the simple fact that they were more in tune with their little one and paying much closer attention to their feeding cues – cues like when the flow is too slow or fast, if baby needs a break, or if they’re getting full. Pair up your skin-to-skin feeding time with Dr. Brown’s® Options+ Anti-Colic Wide-Neck bottle, featuring a new breast-like nipple shape, and baby will feed without fuss.
Improves Quality of Sleep
The term “Quiet Sleep” refers to a baby who has reached a natural, deep sleep for 60 minutes. Sounds like a dream, no pun intended. But it’s a reality for a lot of babies during skin-to-skin time. They’ve been found to fall asleep easily and earn those blissful zzzz’s that help their little brains better develop.
Benefits for Moms and Dads
For moms and dads, skin-to-skin contact has shown to offer a number of benefits. Moms bond even more with baby than when not regularly practicing skin-to-skin, and while this isn’t to say moms who don’t practice it don’t bond, it simply means it makes that connection even stronger. Even years down the line, moms who practiced it regularly were shown to be more snuggly with their kids. Dads who practice it benefit from reduced stress, experiencing an increase in oxytocin, lowering testosterone and improving feelings of well-being and relaxation.
Another great benefit of skin-to-skin contact with baby? A chance to spend at least an hour each day on the couch or in bed, a sort of no-screen time to take it easy and enjoy down time with your little one. While some parents may find it difficult to make room in their schedules each and every day, fitting in some time for loving touch when you can will still go a long way in helping baby and you. Happy snuggling!