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Skin-to-skin care for babies

What is skin to skin contact?

Research 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, provided your baby is well.

What are the benefits of skin to skin contact?

The positive effects on your baby include the following:

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

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 and beyond. 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.

Can I have skin to skin contact with my baby at birth?

Mater encourages skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth. If your baby is born by caesarean section skin to skin may start in the operating theatre or in the recovery room. During the initial skin-to-skin contact you and your baby should be allowed to enjoy this experience without interference. You may, of course, 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 help you at any time.

What if my baby is born early?

This is also important for preterm babies. Skin-to-skin contact has 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 (see Mater’s patient information Skin to skin therapy for babies in NCCU).

Is skin to skin contact only important at birth?

The use of skin-to-skin contact will be beneficial at any time during the newborn period and is for all babies, whether they are breast or formula fed. Both parents can enjoy this special time. If breastfeeding your baby’s midwife, nurse or lactation consultant will frequently use this time to help with any breastfeeding problems. 

Mater acknowledges consumer consultation in the development of this patient information.
Mater Doc Num: PI-CLN-430102
Last modified 24/9/2020.
Consumers were consulted in the development of this patient information.
Last consumer engagement date: 20/4/2020
For further translated health information, you can visit healthtranslations.vic.gov.au/ supported by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services that offers a range of patient information in multiple languages.
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