Skin-to-skin contact, also called kangaroo care, provides a bundle of benefits for both mother and baby, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). As a new parent, you’re always there to hold baby tight, whether they’re crying or just want to cuddle. Your warm embrace makes them instantly feel better, and we can all agree that there really is no such thing as loving your baby too much.
Further scientific evidence shows that love, attention, and affection in the first years of life have a direct and measurable impact on a child’s physical, mental and emotional growth. Doctors have found that this skin-to-skin contact decreases babies’ dependency on incubators and also reduces mortality rates from 70 percent to 30 percent.
Doctors around the world recommend this skin-to-skin contact to new moms of both premature and full-term infants. The AAP notes that skin-to-skin is encouraged immediately after birth, throughout the hospital stay and well after discharge.
Newborns should be placed skin-to-skin with their mother as soon after birth as possible, at least for the first hour. After that, or when the mother needs to sleep or cannot do skin-to-skin, babies should be placed on their backs in the bassinet. The AAP recommends skin-to-skin be given as long and as frequently as possible during the postpartum period, which is typically defined as the first 3 months of life.
There are plenty of reasons why you should consider the bonding method with your premature or full-term infant. The surprising benefits of kangaroo care for the infant include:
- Decreased crying
- Increased weight gain
- Increased breastfeeding
- Stability of heartbeat and breathing
- Increased time spent in the deep sleep and quiet alert states
These benefits are apparent even when skin-to-skin care occurs for only a few minutes each day. Skin-to-skin care has also been associated with improved mental development, healthy weight and more. Best of all, those perks last long after baby is big enough to run and play on their own.