Snuggle up: Keeping Baby Close

It seems like everything is changing and updating faster than a body can even keep track of. Electronics and technology are dated before you can learn what you have.Breastfeeding is not like that, thank goodness. Not that we aren’t learning new things to help moms and babies, but the basics don’t change.

Several years ago I wrote about kangaroo care and premies, and when re-reading, I realized it really covered the points I wanted to make. I wrote then:

Premies grow faster, breastfeed earlier, have fewer breathing interruptions, handle pain with less stress, sleep better and go home from the hospital sooner.

None of that has changed.I want to emphasize, though, that skin-to-skin (or kangaroo) care is not just for premies.

Newborns are a bundle of immaturity and the skin-to-skin time with mom right after birth helps the baby make the transition from womb to world. Baby can hear mom’s heart beat, be rocked by her breathing and stabilize temperature as well or better than any warmer. Babies who have this opportunity to spend skin-to-skin time with mom breastfeed better, regulate blood sugar, get even more exposure to mom’s good bacteria that help colonize the baby’s gut, experience less pain and cry less. A mom with a baby nestled between her breasts will feel the baby’s every move and become attuned to baby’s sleep cycles, discomfort and hunger.

When I see moms and babies for breastfeeding problems, skin-to-skin time is almost always part of the plan to get baby on track with breastfeeding. It allows baby to repeatedly experience the sensory stimuli that would come after birth. There’s a lot of instinctive behavior that gets buried in the hectic-ness of delivery and hospitals and various interventions that are part of a birth. Skin-to-skin helps the baby reset back to those instinctive behaviors that will normalize breastfeeding.

Two other aspects bear mention:

  • It is not just mom who can provide this amazing environment for baby. Dads too can do skin-to-skin with baby with (most of) the same benefits. In some cases, mom isn’t available right away after the birth (medical needs perhaps) and Dad can step in.
  • In the first few weeks and months, keeping baby close as much as possible continues to offer benefits for baby and mom. Babies who are “worn” in wraps or slings also cry less, experience less pain, sleep better and breastfeed better and longer. Moms can be attentive and in touch with baby even when busy…it’s great to be in touch with baby like this and have your hands free too!

No matter what your baby’s age, keeping baby close is soothing to everyone involved. That part will never change.

Sue Petracek, IBCLC

  1. Blackwell Publishing. “Paternal skin-to-skin contact offers cesarean-born baby same calming and development benefits as mom.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 June 2007.
  2. American Academy of Pediatrics. “Early skin-to-skin contact linked to higher breastfeeding rates.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 October 2013.
  3. Elsevier. “Maternal separation stresses the baby, research finds.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 November 2011. 

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