Photo by Janelle Dudzic Photography

Those first moments, when your newborn baby is placed on your chest, is an unforgettable moment. Skin-to-skin contact is not only for satisfying a mother’s desire to bond with their newborn baby, but has also been shown to have significant positive effects on a baby’s health and breastfeeding. By definition, skin-to-skin contact is when a baby is placed on the bare chest of a parent.

Benefits of Skin-To-Skin Contact

Studies have shown that skin-to-skin contact allows for early exposure of a baby to mom’s body temperature and smell, which promotes suckling and breastfeeding. There is a statistically significant increase in the rate of babies who are able to exclusively breastfeed as a result of early skin-to-skin contact. Even among moms who don’t plan on breastfeeding, early skin-to-skin contact provides for significant benefits with regards to improved bonding between mom and baby, as well as decreased stress in baby as they adapt to life outside the uterus.  Skin-to-skin contact  can even decrease the rates of sudden unexpected infant death.  

These benefits are also seen in babies born via caesarian section.  Skin-to-skin contact can be done in the operating room and recovery room immediately after the baby is born.  

What About Dads?

Interestingly, newer studies have also shown that early skin-to-skin contact with its associated benefits can also be established between a father and child.  Rest assured, the same warmth and tactile stimulation that a baby receives from mom during skin-to-skin can also be achieved by dad.

If you have any questions about skin to skin contact, don’t hesitate to ask your health care provider!

This post was co-authored by Aman Gill, a fourth year medical student at the University of Alberta and Dr. Yuliya Koledenko, a family physician with special interest in obstetrical care. 

The post was reviewed and edited by Erin Manchuk, BScPharm, BCGP and Stephanie Liu, MD, MSc, CCFP, BHSc.

References

Bartick, M., Boisvert, M. E., Philipp, B. L., & Feldman-Winter, L. (2020). Trends in breastfeeding interventions, skin-to-skin care, and sudden infant death in the first 6 days after birth. The Journal of Pediatrics218, 11-15.

Crenshaw, J. T., Adams, E. D., Gilder, R. E., DeButy, K., & Scheffer, K. L. (2019). Effects of Skin-to-Skin Care During Cesareans: A Quasiexperimental Feasibility/Pilot Study. Breastfeeding Medicine14(10), 731-743.

Karimi, F. Z., MIRI, H. H., Salehian, M., Khadivzadeh, T., & Bakhshi, M. (2019). The effect of mother-infant skin to skin contact after birth on third stage of labor: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Iranian journal of public health48(4), 612.

Stevens, J., Schmied, V., Burns, E., & Dahlen, H. (2016). A juxtaposition of birth and surgery: Providing skin-to-skin contact in the operating theatre and recovery. Midwifery37, 41-48.