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Breastfeeding—skin to skin contact

A great start for your baby

There is a significant amount of research that supports mothers and babies being together skin-to-skin (baby naked, or in a nappy, placed against the mother’s bare chest) immediately after birth, uninterrupted, for at least an hour. The positive effects on your baby include the following:

  • Your baby is more likely to attach well at the breast.
  • Your baby is more likely to breastfeed effectively.
  • Your baby’s skin temperature, heart rate and breathing rate are more likely to be stable and within normal range.
  • Your baby’s blood glucose levels are more likely to be stable and within normal range.
  • Your baby is less likely to cry.
  • Your baby is more likely to breastfeed exclusively for longer.

Mater encourages skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth. If your baby’s birth is a caesarean section this may commence in the operating theatre or in the recovery room. During this initial skin-to-skin contact you and your baby should be allowed to enjoy this experience without interference. You may, of course, may make some attempts to help your baby attach to the breast and this should not be discouraged. You will not be left alone in this process; a midwife will be available to assist should you require help at any time.

You also have a unique ability to share your immune system with your baby during skin-to-skin contact. Babies are born with an immature immune system which develops over the first 12 months or so. Bacteria that surround you and your baby in the normal environment are absorbed into your system where you develop antibodies (special cells that fight infection or allergens). These antibodies are released into your breast milk to protect your baby. This is why it is so important for mothers and babies to remain in close contact with each other. This, immune boost, plus breastfeeding, are believed to be important in the prevention of allergies.

This is also important for preterm babies. Skin to skin contact and Kangaroo Mother Care (as it is also known) have positive benefits in the care of the preterm baby. Even babies needing oxygen can share skin to skin with their mother (or father); this can help to reduce their oxygen needs, stabilise their temperature, heart rate and breathing and conserve their energy.

The use of skin-to-skin contact will be beneficial at any time during the breastfeeding relationship and is frequently used by lactation consultants to correct a myriad of breastfeeding problems.

Mater acknowledges consumer consultation in the development of this patient information.
Last modified 18/11/2015.
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