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The Benefit of Skin-to-skin Contact After Delivery

When my twins were born at 35 weeks, they were immediately whisked to the neonatal station for a thorough check up and a stint in the incubator. It was more than 12 hours later when I could finally see, much more, hold them. Those waiting hours were probably among the longest in my life.

From the warmth of the womb, the temperature of the outside world can be a shock to the newborn. Thus, preemies are placed in incubators to keep their body temperature stable.

Holding Baby Just After Delivery

A more natural alternative that I should have insisted upon was direct skin-to-skin contact, the so-called kangaroo method. This method of direct cuddling somehow stimulates the conditions in the womb and benefits the baby.

I remember an episode of the Grey’s Anatomy where Alex held a preemie baby girl for what was supposedly the last hours of her life. Instead, he saved her life.

But this does not only happen in TV shows. There is scientific evidence to prove this. There was a case recently of a preemie baby born at 27 weeks in Australia who was declared dead upon delivery. Held by a grieving mother trying to say goodbye for 2 hours, little Jamie revived.

But what does a mom’s body offer that an incubator cannot? The incubator may provide the warmth but it cannot simulate mom’s comforting heart beat, familiar smell and gentle voice. For the baby, the outside world is not so scary anymore.

But even babies who were born full term benefit from skin-to-skin cuddle with mom or dad. Those first few minutes of body contact can mean the bonding of a lifetime.

The Benefits Are Not Just For Baby

However, the benefits of directing cuddling are not one-sided. Mommies get something out of it, too, according to a recent study by Canadian researchers. Moms who practiced skin-to-skin cuddle tend to breastfeed much longer, are less likely to suffer from postpartum depression, and develop a much closer bond to their babies than those moms who didn’t. Scientists believe the bonding hormone oxytocin is responsible for this (see previous post on oxytocin).Besides, close physical contact with her baby makes a mommy atuned to the infant’s signals, be it hunger, slumber or wakefulness. The baby, too, gets to recognize mommy’s feel and smell right from the start.

More than 7 years ago, I wasn’t allowed to hold my babies right after C-section. I always urge moms-to-be: hold your baby next to your skin right after delivery. It’s a once-in-a lifetime moment. It’s good for your baby and for you.


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4 Comments on "The Benefit of Skin-to-skin Contact After Delivery"

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5 years 8 months ago

I am a mother of two and this is my first time to hear about this kangaroo care. Though I have been doing it to my kids but this is my first time to hear the correct term for that method. All I can say is, nothing beats the warm of a mom to her baby. It proved the deep connections of the both.

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5 years 8 months ago

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Skin-to-Skin contact after delivery is the best… [link to post]

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Nyrie Roos
5 years 8 months ago

Hi Tom
It is great to hear a Dads perception re KMC. I am currently researching the topic in preperation for a book. I am very passionate about KMC nd it is graet to here that your experience was as great as it was.

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Tom
5 years 8 months ago

As a dad of 30 weeker preemie twins, I can attest to the benefits of Kangaroo care, and I was glad to see it on Grey’s.

Our twins spent a difficult 5 and 6 weeks in the NICU, coming home over a month before their due date. They were born weighing 2 pounds 9 oz and 3 pounds 5 oz. The hospital they were born in encouraged kangaroo care, and we’re grateful for its effects.

They are now big, happy, healthy 14 month olds, and you would never know about the prematurity unless we told you, from looking at them.

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