The first few moments after birth is truly magical. How and where an infant spends the first few hours of his life can impact him short as well as long-term. Research shows that the best place for a newborn immediately after birth and for prolonged periods of time is in chest to chest contact with the mother. Skin to skin and kangaroo are terms often used interchangeably. Kangaroo Mother Care is a form of care for preemies that includes skin to skin in the kangaroo position; mother and baby are bare chest to bare chest with only a blanket covering the baby’s back. For the sake of this article anytime I refer to the skin to skin I mean unclothed chest to chest contact between mother and infant.
Dr. Bergman’s research has shown that this skin to skin contact between mother and baby is where the brain, DNA and social and emotional intelligence get the best start.
Dr. Nils Bergman a perinatal neuroscience specialist from South Africa recently spoke at Grandview Medical Center in Birmingham, Alabama on the Neuroscience of Skin to Skin Contact and Kangaroo Mother Care. It is called this because Marsupials are born immature and crawl from the birth canal to a skin pouch on their mother. Here they are kept warm and feed until they fully develop. Dr. Bergman’s research has shown that this skin to skin contact between mother and baby is where the brain, DNA and social and emotional intelligence get the best start.
Benefits of skin to skin care for the infant include:
- Temperature regulation
- Stabilized breathing pattern and oxygen intake
- Increases breastfeeding success
- Stabilized glucose levels
- Stress reduction
- Increased brain development/social and emotional intelligence
Skin to skin contact is symbiotic; it benefits both baby and mother. Research has shown that benefits include:
- Increased milk production and breastfeeding success
- Faster delivery of the placenta
- Increased bonding
- Reduced risk of postpartum depression
- Reduced stress levels
- Better sleep cycle for mother and baby
One way to ensure that your newborn is afforded the best start with immediate skin to skin contact is to discuss it with your doctor and write a birth plan that includes after birth care guidelines.