Healthy Children Project
East Sandwich, MA 02537
Tel: (508) 888-8044

Skin to Skin: Important and Vital

Skin to Skin Skin to Skin Skin to Skin

As the evidence of the benefits of breastfeeding and the risks of not breastfeeding mount, improving breastfeeding rates has become an increasingly important public health strategy for promoting optimal health among mothers and their babies (American Public Health Association, 2007; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2005; Obama, 2010). The practice of placing newborns skin-to-skin within minutes of birth, remaining through the first breastfeeding, uninterrupted, has been shown to increase the rate of exclusive breastfeeding when mothers and babies are discharged from the hospital. Placing newborns skin-to skin with the mother immediately after birth and encouraging them to support the infant to breastfeed when ready has become the standard of care described in the World Health Organization/UNICEF Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (2009, p. 5).

Skin to Skin a Critical Component for the Full Term Newborn

Advances in knowledge and skill regarding labor and birth allow most mothers to safely experience the birth of their baby awake and aware. The stages of labor are well known, well documented. The process of cesarean surgery has become routine. Recent research has helped us understand that being in skin to skin contact with the mother during the first hour after birth is a critical component in providing behaviorally appropriate individualized baby adapted care for the full term newborn.

Why is continuous, uninterrupted, skin to skin contact beginning immediately after birth important to the baby?  This is a developmentally distinct time for the baby and there are well documented short and long term physical and psychological advantages when the baby is held skin to skin during this time.

The baby who is held skin to skin...

Benefits for Babies

Benefits for Mothers

  • Babies are warmer.

  • Babies are calmer.

  • Babies cry less.

  • Better blood glucose levels and respiration.

  • Babies can hear their mother's heartbeat.

  • More likely to latch on well.

  • Babies have better self regulation as measured one year later. The baby has better competence to calm himself.

  • When babies are skin to skin with their mother breastfeeding reflexes awaken naturally.

  • It is the optimal time for bonding between mother and baby.

  • Mothers achieve a more restful sleep.

  • Can decrease mother's anxiety and postpartum pain.

  • Mothers who have experienced skin to skin contact show increased sensitivity to the baby even when measured one year later.

Implementing skin to skin in the first hour after birth at your hospital

Healthy Children provides a number of resources to help assist staff with implementing skin to skin in the first hour. The video Skin to Skin in the First Hour After Birth: Practical Advice for Staff after Vaginal and Cesarean Birth is an excellent source of support for staff. In addition, we offer consulting services using the PRECESS method, working side by side with staff to make appropriate changes that may be unique to the hospital's situation. Our experts also are available for Keynote speeches. Call or email for more information.