One of my fondest memories of those newborn baby days are those long and comforting snuggles on the sofa, my baby lying draped over my chest in just her diaper, feeling her little breaths exhaling against my neck and her tiny hand resting upon my shoulder. I used to call it a time vacuum – because before you knew it, hours could pass with my baby lying calm and content, allowing some much needed rest between the madness of breastfeeding, bath time and bum changes.
Having skin-to-skin contact with your baby is actually really important in those very early days and not only for your baby.
Here are some things you may not know about the importance of skin to skin contact:
- Skin to Skin contact has huge thermoregulation benefits – a really effective way of helping your baby regulate their temperature. Babies are used to the warm, calm and humid environment of your womb. Unlike adults who are able to shiver or sweat to control their body temperatures, babies don’t have that ability, meaning they often feel the cold, even when born in the warmer months. No one likes being cold, particularly newborns, and lying skin to skin upon your chest can help them maintain a steady temperature (even if it feels like a little hot water bottle for you!)
- Skin to skin contact can help babies be calmer and cry less often, being comforted by the familiar rhythm and white noise of your heart beat that they will recognize from the womb.
- Lying on your chest with a loose blanket draped over you both can help replicate the feelings of security they had in the womb, helping them feel less exposed and vulnerable as they adjust to their new environment.
- Being physically close can help babies become more familiar with your scent and face, and be closer to the comforting sound of your voice.
- When your baby’s temperature is stable, their breathing and heart rate will stabilize too, making them far more likely to drift off to sleep after a feed. Lying upright on your chest can also avoid post feed complications such as gas and colic, and is a far more efficient way to wind your baby.
Skin to Skin has a number of benefits for the Parents too:
- For a new Mom, holding your baby close and being skin to skin can increase oxytocin levels – the feel good hormone that can help reduce blood pressure and stress levels. With all those post pregnancy hormones flitting around, this can be really helpful in calming your mood and helping you bond with your newborn.
- Dads can really benefit from skin to skin too – it may be a particularly useful way for Dad’s to help support their breastfeeding partners, helping to comfort and settle your baby after a feed and whilst Mom gets some much needed rest. This closeness and intimacy with their baby can also help Dads to get closer and learn about their babies behaviors too.
- Lying skin to skin with their newborns can help Mom’s learn to recognize her babies behavior queues including signs of hunger, sleep cues and wind/colic. The more you can understand what different movements, actions and sounds mean, the more effective you can be in comforting your baby.
One thing is for sure, this tiny bundle will be growing bigger every single day! Make the most of those tiny newborn cuddles whilst you can and reap the benefits for all of you.