In a world that seems to constantly be at odds with what comes naturally to moms and their babies, many parents are looking for ways to connect with their kids more. When work pulls you away or breastfeeding doesn’t go as planned, it’s skin to skin contact to the rescue!
From bonding to immune system health, spending time making direct contact with your children’s skin has numerous documented benefits.
It Can Reduce the Risk of SIDS
The biology of a newborn is definitely the best example of the miracles of skin to skin contact in action.
Scientists now know that human babies are actually born, from a developmental perspective, about three months too early. The reason for this is because our large brains require a seriously large cranium, and that cranium has to make it through mom’s birth canal.
To compromise, babies are born earlier than they should be, and as a result, are much more physically dependent on their mothers. This is where skin to skin contact comes in.
When you make close contact with your newborn baby, you’re sending biological signals to their tiny bodies:
- Heart, keep beating
- Breathe with me
- Sleep when I sleep
In short, what mom’s (and dad’s) body does as it’s pressed up against baby’s helps to maintain the rhythms of their heart and breathing. It cues their tiny bodies to keep up and keep going, and helps them to establish normal cycles of feeding and sleep.
It Helps Mothers Bond With Baby
Having children is a physically depleting process and one that can leave you without the energy to actively bond with your baby. Nature’s thought of this though, and the answer again lies in skin to skin contact.
When you have your baby pressed against your skin, you’re doing more than influencing her internal biology — she’s influencing yours.
Those snuggles and kisses trigger hormonal releases in postpartum mothers that are necessary for regulating your system in the postpartum sense of overwhelm. It can help on a chemical level to prevent postpartum depression and anxiety and even cue your body to produce milk!
Postpartum Depression: Your Baby Can Help
When you inhale the scent of your baby and engage in the sensory experience of cuddling skin to skin with her, it actually triggers a heavy release of the hormone dopamine. This hormone is responsible for our feelings of happiness and pleasure.
If you’re feeling the baby blues setting in, absolutely consult with a physician, but try some skin to skin too. Chances are, your baby’s cuddles are all your body needs to jumpstart your dopamine production and make you feel like you again.
Including Daddy in the Cuddles
Since newborns are so physically dependent on their mothers, a lot of times dads feel really left out those first few years. This can lead to difficulty bonding with new babies and a feeling of disconnect until they get older.
While babies will always have an inherent biological need for their moms, skin to skin cuddles with Dad can make them feel more included and help them both bond better, faster. Just like in postpartum mothers, snuggling with a newborn baby triggers that dopamine release in dads, so hand him the baby for some skin to skin snuggles.
Getting Skin to Skin Time In
No doubt the hardest part of skin to skin cuddling is just making it happen. It’s hard to just sit and snuggle your baby when you have older children in the picture, so aim for that time when you have a little backup with the kids.
If you don’t have much time for cuddling in bed with baby, skin to skin can also be done in your ring sling! Just put baby in a diaper, wear your sports bra (if you want to), and seat baby snugly in the sling while you keep your arms free to multitask!
There are a few other things to consider when planning a bit of skin to skin cuddling:
- Be prepared for poop or pee. Diaper-free cuddles are adorable, but poop happens.
- Think about what you put on your skin. Babies are much more sensitive than we are. It’s estimated that 80% of what we expose our skin to gets absorbed into our systems, so make sure what you have on yours is baby-safe. Avoid heavy perfumes and skip the self tanners.
- Always keep baby’s nose and mouth free. As in any other situation with cuddling or babywearing, make sure baby’s nose and mouth is visible at all times and that baby’s head isn’t slumped forward.
How do you sneak skin to skin cuddles in with other kids around? What kind of difference has it made in your bonding with your baby?