Nine months of anticipation and growing love for this little person developing inside of you all come down to this one priceless moment — the delivery of your baby! You hear that first precious cry and you want nothing more than to embrace this sweet child. Is this just your newly found maternal instinct? Yes, but what you may not realize is that it is so much more than this.
Kangaroo care, also known as skin-to-skin care, is a method in which your unclothed newborn is placed directly on your bare chest, offering incredible benefits not only to you but also to your baby. Because of these wonderful advantages, there is a movement toward increasing this mother-baby bonding after both vaginal and C-section deliveries.
So, how do moms benefit from this skin-to-skin care?
Research has shown that when a mother has uninterrupted skin-to-skin care with her newborn, there is actually a rise in her oxytocin levels (oxytocin is the same hormone that is responsible for all of those contractions). This hormone helps promote bonding and also reduces stress for mothers. I have definitely witnessed this in practice. Mothers who have had an un-medicated delivery and require stitches are significantly more relaxed and better tolerate the discomfort of the repair when their newborn is nestled closely to them.
Other studies have shown that skin-to-skin care may also reduce postpartum bleeding and result in more rapid delivery of the placenta.
Benefits for the newborn
The benefits of kangaroo care are even more astounding for the newborn. We know from several studies that skin-to-skin care can increase the success of breastfeeding, as it allows the baby to naturally find the breast and latch (the “crawl reflex”). Newborns also tend to have more stable blood sugar levels, heart rates and breathing rates, and can better maintain their body temperatures when placed on the mother’s bare chest.
Do fathers play any role in skin-to-skin?
Absolutely! Studies have shown that skin-to-skin contact between fathers and their newborns not only fosters increased bonding, but babies are also more calm and better able to maintain their body temperatures. This is a wonderful alternative if mom cannot immediately do skin-to-skin care.
Whenever possible, skin-to-skin care between mom and baby should be encouraged. From increased calm for mother and baby to greater breastfeeding success, the advantages abound. Who knew that first loving embrace would have such positive impacts during the postpartum period and beyond?
To learn more about childbirth and the pregnancy journey, visit an OB/GYN on the medical staff at Baylor Scott & White Health.