October 23,

Skin-to-Skin

Skin-to-Skin

Skin-to-Skin Contact for Newborn Babies

Skin-to-skin contact (SSC) immediately after birth between mothers and their infants has been shown to reduce crying, and to improve breastfeeding success compared to those babies that are swaddled at birth.  Early SSC is the placing of an undressed (or diapered) baby prone on the mother’s bare chest immediately after birth.  A blanket can be placed over the newborn for additional warmth, as long as it does not interfere with the direct SSC with the mother.

Benefits of skin-to-skin contact

Early SSC is a powerful vagal stimulant which releases maternal oxytocin. The release of oxytocin causes the skin temperature of the mother’s breasts to rise, thus providing a warm environment for her infant. The release of oxytocin also promotes maternal attachment.  Early SSC has also been shown to increase cardiac and respiratory stability, along with improving temperature regulation and blood glucose levels for newborns.

Skin-to-skin and breastfeeding

Mothers that have immediate SSC with their babies have a significantly higher breastfeeding success rate at 1-4 months post-birth, and have an increased duration of breastfeeding.  The infant has a more acute awareness of nipple location and have a heightened response to odour cues in the first few hours after birth.  When breastfeeding initiation is successful this improves a mother’s confidence and reduces her stress.

How can you incorporate skin-to-skin in your practice?

Prenatally you can promote skin-to-skin by discussing the benefits with women.

In the delivery room place healthy term babies in uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth for at least one hour or until completion of the first feeding, or for as long as the mother wishes.   Babies can be dried on mother’s chest and clean blankets placed over the two of them for warmth.  Encourage mothers to recognize when their babies are ready to feed, offering help as needed.

In the early postpartum period including the hospital stay and well-baby checks, ask about and encourage skin-to-skin with parents as a way to support breastfeeding and promote attachment.

Last modified on Aug 16, 2016