Is skin-to-skin contact only for premature babies or for every full term baby?
This is a very important question! Previously it was thought that skin-to-skin contact was only for premature babies and was vital for their survival, as they had been born too early. What studies from psychology, zoology and psychiatry now show is that skin-to-skin contact at birth is vital to start all of the baby’s physical and emotional regulation, and should be the right of every baby at birth. For the last millions of years mothers have had their babies continually with them. It is only when birth started happening in hospitals in the last 100 years that mothers and babies have been separated. This has led to making babies more “sick” at birth. We have created unnecessary problems…….
SKIN-TO-SKIN CONTACT IS ALSO FOR FULL TERM BABIES
Many people think that Kangaroo Mother Care is only for premature or preterm babies. . All of the benefits that a premature needs apply to full term babies as well. Being with mother on her chest at birth should be the normal situation for every baby at birth. It is only when babies started to be born in hospitals instead of in homes that babies were separated from their mums. For the last thousands of years humans have been dependent on being with mother and having breastmilk for their survival. Being separated from mother creates stress in all babies. Some can cope okay with stress, but others are more sensitive and end up as more vulnerable and even get sick.
On mums chest in skin-to-skin contact is where babies stabilize, grow and develop the best, On mums chest the full term or premature can eat and sleep peacefully and can use all of her energy to grow well. She is reassured by mum’s familiar smell and heartbeat and voice. The baby is protected by mother’s arms and is held close and feels SAFE.
In her safe place the baby can start those vital first movements towards breastfeeding and start nuzzling the breast. This sends messages to the mother’s brain in the hypothalamus to start making prolactin to produce milk, and the pituitary gland to start making oxytocin which makes the let down reflex. So in skin-to-skin contact at birth we have the vital start of breastmilk being made.
Sensations fire and wire the brain. During breastfeeding all the senses work together to make pathways and circuits into networks. So taste and smell, as well as sight and sound and warmth and touch and pressure and balance and movement – are integrated.
Combined now with baby’s basic needs being met, and the oxytocin love-bond to mother who provides those needs, over time this sense of safety translates to the capacity to trust. The end result of this early experience and is what we call a “secure attachment”. This is a psychological term that refers to the secure base that the child now has to develop from, and on which it builds adult mental health.
A baby needs to be held by her mother for physical, emotional and mental well-being.
Emotional intelligence begins with the wiring of the approach pathway, which comes from feeling safe in skin-to-skin contact. The eye-to-eye contact, bonding, love and trust are the start of social intelligence. Together these form the basis for all other relationships. Right in these first minutes of life both emotional and social intelligence are being fired and wired into your baby’s brain
The key to this is skin-to-skin contact.