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5 amazing benefits of skin to skin

You’ve probably heard of ‘skin to skin’ contact and been told it’s a good thing for both mum and bub but what exactly IS skin to skin and why is it so important?

We’re taking a closer look at what it actually involves, why it’s wonderful and how the benefits continue long after bubba is out of the newborn stage!

So what is skin to skin exactly?

Skin to skin, sometimes referred to as STS or ‘kangaroo care’ refers to holding your baby without clothes against your bare skin, usually your chest. Think of it as the closest cuddle you could possibly get! And while it’s a generally lovely experience for both parent and baby, it also has a bunch of incredibly important health and wellbeing benefits. According to The Royal Children’s Hospital, skin to skin has been shown to ‘improve developmental, physiological and psychological outcomes for babies’. It’s why many hospitals world wide make ensure that structures are put in place to allow uninterrupted skin to skin after birth, where possible.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the benefits of both immediate, post birth skin-to-skin and skin to skin as your bub gets older.

1. It helps to regulate temperature, heart rate and blood sugar levels

There’s a reason your midwife or caregiver will often place your baby straight onto your bare chest after birth. The initiation of skin to skin contact straight after birth has been shown to quickly help stabilise bubs temperature, heart rate and blood sugar levels as they adjust to life outside of the womb. And skin to skin isn’t just reserved for after a vaginal delivery. Mums who have had a c-section are often able to have skin to skin as soon as possible after birth. If mum needs a little more time, a partner or support person will often be offered the chance to snuggle up with bub until mum is ready.

2. Skin-to-skin can help initiate breastfeeding

Skin-to-skin especially right after birth can help to establish successful breastfeeding while also promoting bonding between mum and bub. As your baby is placed on your chest, they will instinctively relax, thanks to both the warmth and familiar sound of your heartbeat. After a short rest, they may then start moving towards your breast, this is sometimes referred to as the ‘breast crawl.’ Baby will use their senses to find their way to the nipple and then, ideally, self-attach for their first feed. Being skin to skin and topless can help this process to unfold naturally.

3. Skin to skin can boost your milk supply

Just like helping to initiate breastfeeding, skin to skin can be very beneficial for your milk supply. According to the Australian Breastfeeding Association, holding your baby close helps to trigger the release of hormones that help to make milk. Those hormones are the reason why a lot of mums will often feel most comfortable being topless as they learn how to breastfeed in the days and weeks after birth.

4. It releases oxycontin

And speaking of hormones, skin to skin contact both immediately after birth and as your baby grows is an amazing way to release oxytocin, otherwise known as the love hormone. After birth, oxytocin floods your system to help your uterus to begin to contract and warming up your body to create a warm spot for bub to nestle as they take their first breaths and begin to process being born! And oxytocin isn’t just a post-birth hormone! Mums often report feeling a sense of relaxation and wellbeing when they cuddle their baby or toddler skin-to-skin, especially after a long day!

5. It can help soothe over-stimulation and comfort a tired or sick baby or toddler

The benefits of skin to skin don’t stop as your bub gets older. Quite the opposite in fact! Skin to skin contact can be a wonderful way to calm your little ones nervous system and/or soothe them when they are feeling over-stimulated or unwell. Many mums will be able to attest to the soothing powers of a skin to skin cuddle with their baby.

And remember, skin to skin isn’t just reserved for mums. Partners and other support people are generally encouraged to practice skin to skin after birth, especially if mum may need to delay the process due to birth complications or other factors.

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