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The Magic of Skin on Skin Contact

The biggest prize at the end of a pregnancy is being handed a healthy baby. It’s no wonder we don’t want to let that baby go, the benefits of skin to skin contact for mother and baby are enormous. But continued skin to skin contact is also hugely beneficial, so keep it going for as long as you can. Benefits are known to be both short term and long term, so there are plenty of reasons to make it a habit for long after you leave the birthing suite.

An international long term study found that babies that had regular skin to skin contact had stronger maternal attachment behaviour, better cognitive development, and reduced material anxiety. Here are some of the other great benefits.

Improved Heart and Lung Function

The transition from womb to earth means a baby goes through a massive transition from amniotic fluid to air. Babies that are held skin to skin by their mothers adapted to life outside the womb faster than those that were not. One theory is that the mother’s heart beat and breathing rhythms are familiar to the baby so they are more likely to relax.

Helps Initiate Breastfeeding

When a baby is placed on the mother’s chest or abdomen it is able to find the breast for themselves and latch on. A baby’s natural instinct is to seek the breast and latch on after birth so providing immediate skin to skin contact gives the baby an opportunity to do this.

It Can Help With Brain Development

Positive sensory stimulation is behind a baby’s brain development. The things that tell a baby that they are safe after birth are a mother’s smell, movements, voice and skin to skin contact. When the brain does not get those sensations, development can be delayed while the baby remains in ‘defence mode’. Skin to skin contact triggers some key things in the brain, which result in the baby looking for the breast, as well as opening their eyes to look at their mother. So skin to skin contact triggers the physical need to feed and the emotional and social connection through seeing their mother.

Improves the Mother-Baby Bond

Having your baby placed on your chest in the Golden Hour triggers an intense connection between mother and baby because of the surge in oxytocin – also known as the ‘love hormone’. As well as the oxytocin, the smells released by both mother and baby are powerful pheromones that are designed to attract one to the other.

For those mothers who can’t enjoy skin on skin contact immediately after the birth, there are still plenty of benefits from skin on skin between a Dad and his baby. Once mother and baby are both well, skin on skin contact can resume and still offers plenty of benefits.

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