Wondering about benefits skin to skin? You can hold your baby skin to skin for the prevention and treatment of any problems. If they’re crying, sick, not breastfeeding well-put them skin to skin! This video by Dr. Nils Bergman is what makes me think we can change the world through breastfeeding! The most normal place for your baby to be is close to you. Skin to skin at 3 weeks old, 3 months old, even 8 months old or beyond. I love to tell parents two things:
- Hold your baby skin to skin as much as you can tolerate.
- Hold your baby skin to skin for the prevention and treatment of any problems.
There are so many reasons! Let’s dive into a few of my favorites.
Benefits Skin to Skin in the First Few Days
You are the closest thing to everything they know.
Your baby is used to being inside you (in utero). It is the only thing he knows before birth. Holding him skin to skin is the closest he can get to “everything he knows”. It gives him the same stomach sounds, breath sounds, heart beat, voice. You’re warm, you have food. Your baby knows he can thrive when he is skin to skin with you.
Contrast that with a basinet. A basinet isn’t warm. It doesn’t have familiar sounds. So, your baby shows feeding cues to get back to where he knows he’s safe and can thrive. Newborns often show feeding cues or cry when laid down. Parents think they are hungry. When baby is back at the breast, he falls asleep. On mom’s chest, he knows he is safe.
Skin to skin holding helps his body regulate.
When your baby is skin to skin with you, you are regulating his temperature for him and helping him to regulate his respiratory rate. Dads can warm up a chilly baby by holding him skin to skin. Moms can warm up or cool down a baby to the temperature they need by holding them skin to skin. When a twin mom holds both babies skin to skin, the sides of her chest will warm up and cool down differently if needed. Her chest will meet the needs of each baby individually! This is just the tip of the iceberg in all the ways your body is designed to take care of your baby!
Because you are helping regulate some of your baby’s systems, he doesn’t have to work as hard. That means he can have more stable blood sugars. When babies get stressed out their blood sugars drop. If your baby is early, small, large, or you have some form of diabetes you can help him stabilize his blood sugars. Keep him skin to skin as much as possible!
Here is my summary of 5 benefits of holding your baby skin throughout the first few days:
- It helps them to cry less
- It helps them regulate their temperature, respiratory rate, and blood sugar
- It helps them to latch better
- It helps mom to make more milk
- It helps their brain development (and changes the parents brain, too)
Why hold your baby skin to skin after the first few days? Benefits skin to skin 3 weeks old, 8 weeks, beyond?
Crying and brain development
Research shows that babies held more skin to skin in their first 8 weeks of life cry less at 1 years old. Who doesn’t want a one year old who cries less?! Holding your baby skin to skin is helping his brain development. It’s helping him to know he is safe and you will take care of him. This allows him to explore and grow because he’s not worried about his survival. Dr. Nils Bergman does a lot of research on skin to skin. It’s fascinating! Here’s a great video from him!
A few of my favorite Dr. Nils Bergman points:
- The smell of a mother affects the sleep of her baby and the wiring of his brain. (Hold your baby skin to skin to regulate their sleep wake cycle!)
- “Nothing the infant can or cannot do makes sense without the mother’s body. The mother’s body is the baby’s environment.” -Dr. Nils Bergman
- During the first 1,000 seconds of life, when a newborn is skin to skin with his mother, two parts of his brain get connected: his emotional and his social. (In this current time of a huge increase in mental and social disorders, this one feels so important.)
- A Cochran review showed breastfeeding is the outcome of skin to skin. (So put your babies skin to skin to help them to breastfeed! Sleepy baby? Angry baby? Baby not gaining weight? Baby not latching? Put them skin to skin!)
- In the first 1,000 minutes of life, the mother’s brain is rewiring based on the skin to skin contact with her baby. (First day.)
- Skin to skin contact is the normal biology. Toxic Stress is the absence of the buffering protection of an adult’s support. Term babies have some coping skills for toxic stress, preterm babies do not.
- After all his research, Dr. Bergman’s public health message is zero separation. Mothers and babies should never be separated. Some parts of the world have even done away with incubators. A family member stays at the bedside at all times, even during procedures, to hold the baby.
Ideally, you’ll always be skin to skin with your baby when you’re latching them on and working on breastfeeding. This will help baby:
- wake up more for nursing
- calm down if he’s mad
- bring out his newborn instincts so he has the best chance at a great latch
- help mom to make more milk (30 minutes of holding baby skin to skin promotes milk production.)
Skin to skin means as much of baby’s skin up against your skin as possible. So, they’re in a diaper but no clothes and you are shirtless. Expect occasional feedings with clothes because of the circumstance. Your understanding of skin to skin should be without clothes.
Dad should hold baby skin to skin also!
Don’t be nervous.
Dad, please don’t stress that hospital staff seeing you without your shirt on. We deal with mostly naked people all the time as our patients and really don’t notice/register it/think of it that way. I’m not sure how to phrase it. But it’s perfectly normal for an OB nurse to walk into a room where the parents don’t have their shirts on. We want you to hold your baby skin to skin! (Sometimes the dad’s crack “skin to fur” jokes. That’s great, too!)
It changes your brain and helps you bond with baby.
There was a study done where half the dads held their baby skin to skin in the first few days and half didn’t. Then, the dads filled out a survey when they left the hospital about how attached they felt to their baby. The ones who had held their baby skin to skin scored higher on their attachment survey! Dr. Bergman talks about how skin to skin holding helps you be more in tune with your baby. PLUS, besides helping you make more milk, holding your baby skin to skin will give him the benefits listed above.
Skin to skin is really useful when you need to calm a crying baby.
Holding your baby skin to skin is a great practice once you’re home. For all the reasons listed above. Also, for when mom is in the shower, needs 20 minutes more sleep, or is on a walk. If you need to keep a newborn calm for a few minutes until mom is ready:
- Place baby skin to skin with you
- Cover him with a blanket if it’s cool
- Give him your clean pinky finger to suckle on (pad side to the roof of his mouth).
This way, mom doesn’t feel frantic finishing what she’s doing. Dad knows just what to do when he needs to pacify a hungry baby. Frantic newborn and parents is not our goal. 😉
Continued benefits skin to skin
This has happened more than once. I’m telling my husband something is off with one of our babies and he says, “why don’t you hold them skin to skin?” Huh. Yeah. Why didn’t I think of that? Skin to skin should be your go-to for the treatment of and prevention of any problems. Baby is fussy and you can’t figure it out? Put him skin to skin. Help him regulate his body. Comfort him. Be there for him. This applies when they’re 3 weeks old, 3 months old, 8 months old, etc!
In addition to holding your baby skin to skin, make sure to smell his head. You and your baby have pheromones: chemicals secreted to elicit a response from someone else. These help release oxytocin in your body which moves milk down to your nipple, helps with parent-infant attachment, and makes you relaxed and sleepy. Smelling your baby’s head helps with baby blues. So, go on, hold your baby skin to skin and smell his sweet little head!
Tips for holding your baby skin to skin more
- Don’t dress him! Babies don’t like dressing and undressing. The clothes are mostly for you, mama. Instead of dressing him, swaddle him in a blanket or two with just his diaper on him when you’re not holding skin to skin. Then, just open the blanket when you’re ready to hold him skin to skin or feed him. I promise you will do more skin to skin if he’s not dressed.
- Bring a robe, a button down sweater/flannel/shirt, or a soft jacket with a full zipper to the hospital. This way you can hold your baby skin to skin and wrap the jacket around you both. You have the option of covering your arms and back if your room is cold. When your in-laws, your boss, or whoever comes in you’re covered. Baby covers the front and your jacket covers the sides and back. You can also wear a loose shirt and put baby in your shirt.
Hold your baby skin to skin 3 weeks old, 8 months old! Share this article with your hubby, family, and friends so they know to remind and encourage you to hold baby skin to skin.