Those first few moments after giving birth are some of the most important in a baby’s life. In times past in the United States, babies—even healthy ones--were often given a minute or so with mom and then whisked away to be cleaned, weighed and measured. As more and more hospitals transition to Baby Friendly hospitals (ie. hospitals that promote and support breastfeeding using the WHO standards) and understand the importance of those first moments after birth to the physical and emotional health of both mom and baby, skin-to-skin contact, or kangaroo care, is becoming more commonplace.
What is Skin-to-Skin?
Just as the name implies, skin-to-skin contact is when the naked baby (or clothed in just a diaper) is placed on a bare chest. The concept was first recognized in the 1970s in Bogota, Colombia when there was a shortage of incubators and skin-to-skin contact was used to help keep babies warm. During this time, they noticed many other benefits that were happening while babies were engaging in kangaroo care.
Who Can Do Skin-to-Skin?
Traditionally, the mom is usually the one to first experience skin-to-skin contact, but any parent or caregiver can also participate! As part of some birth plans, dads wear a button-down shirt to be able to easily engage in skin-to-skin contact with the newborn, which is particularly helpful if the mom needs to be whisked away for surgical or other health reasons.
What are the Benefits of Skin-to-Skin?
The benefits of kangaroo care are numerous to both mother and baby.
How do I do Kangaroo Care?
Talk with your healthcare provider about your birth plan and your wish for skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth. Have the baby placed belly-down on your bare chest. The nurses may wish to dry off the baby and put on a hat first. You can then wrap a blanket around the both of you to keep you warm. For skin-to-skin contact at later times, you can leave the baby diapered. Moms and dads can both participate in skin-to-skin contact, and the benefits will continue, providing a naturally calming way to bond with your baby.