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Birth Facts - The Magic of Skin-on-Skin Contact
Why it is so important

The Magic of Skin-on-Skin Contact


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31/10/2017

Why it is so important

The benefits of skin to skin contact with mother and baby post birth are many. It is particularly important for the first 2 hours after birth with the mother, however, if this is not possible skin to skin with partners is still beneficial.  We often associate skin to skin contact with just after birth but this time of physical connection can be continued into the early weeks and months of your baby’s life with mother and partners. Here are some reasons why:

Increases Hormone (Oxytocin) Production

When a baby is first born having skin-on-skin with its mother encourages an increase in oxytocin which is known as the ‘hormone of love’. It has been widely studied and proven that women have the greatest hormone rush at the point of delivery and in the Third Stage of labour. These high levels of oxytocin assist with the birth of the placenta and the shutting down of the uterus, to minimize blood loss. Emotionally, oxytocin in both mother and baby at this time promotes feelings of love, connection, affection and allows for greater attachment.

Helps Initiate Breastfeeding (Prolactin)

Prolactin is also released after birth and is enhanced by skin-on-skin contact; this in turn helps kickstart the production of breast milk. Ongoing skin-onskin helps mother and baby feel calm, connected and helps keep up the milk supply.

Regulates Body Temperature

After birth a baby’s body temperature can easily drop. Skin-on-skin contact allows a newborn to regulate its body temperature using its mother's body heat, keeping baby nice and warm.

Regulates Blood Sugar

Babies use blood sugar for energy (e.g. to stay warm) and a drop in blood sugar may lead to stress and developmental issues. Before birth, glucose is provided through the placenta; after birth, babies get it from their mother. Reducing the amount of energy required to stay warm ensures that a newborn does not use more blood sugar than what they can get from their mother’s milk or from their liver.

Improves heart and lung function

Babies go through a dramatic transition after birth as they prepare to take their first breath. Babies held skin-on-skin by their mothers tend to adapt sooner than those who are not. They also tend to have heart and breathing rates that are both more normal and more stable.

Transfers Good Bacteria

When a baby is born vaginally the baby’s gut is colonised with good bacteria from the mother’s vagina – and important stage in development of autoimmune function. Another way that babies get exposed to their mother’s bacteria is through skin-on-skin contact after birth. Bacteria in the vagina and on the skin are different from bacteria found externally, so early exposure helps babies develop a diverse range of healthy bacteria.

Strengthens the Immune System

Skin-on-skin contact helps baby’s digestive system mature and reduces the risk of infection. The physical connection between mother and baby promotes colonisation of the bacteria on the mother’s skin. This triggers an immune response in the mother to produce antibodies with specific bacteria-resistant antibodies, which is then passed onto the newborn.

Reduced Crying

Holding your baby skin-on-skin gives your baby a sense of comfort. It can feel your heartbeat, knows your voice and is learning your scent. Although it is normal for babies to cry they are less likely to if they are not separated from their mothers.




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