Promoting Attachment Through Skin-To-Skin Contact
Newborns naturally bring about attention, love, and affection from everyone that knows the parents. Not everyone realizes the importance of physical touch between the mother and the baby though. Research has shown that there is great importance in appropriate physical touch for newborns, especially babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).
“Oh, my goodness, she’s so cute! I could just stare at her all day!”
One of the most common phrases parents hear from friends, family, and especially Grandmothers, right?!
Have you heard of the term - Kangaroo Care?
Touch and hearing are the first senses to develop in a baby. Kangaroo care refers to the physical touch between parent and newborn baby. Kangaroo care is like a warm hug for tiny babies, just like a kangaroo snuggled in its mom's pouch. By placing your newborn baby directly onto your chest, offering skin-to-skin contact, you provide a sense of connection, making them feel closer and happier. Studies have shown cuddling has long term effects on health, development, and behavior of a baby. Physical touch of the newborn is good for the parents in many ways and good for the newborns’ health and development. So really, it's a win win for everyone! There is even more emphasis on the importance of skin-to-skin contact for NICU babies or preemies to support their healing and long-term growth. It's more than just cuddles, it is like medicine!
Benefits of Kangaroo Care
Physical touch between the mother and the newborn baby can have lasting positive effects on the mother. Studies have shown that it reduces maternal stress by calming mama down. It promotes bonding between the mother and baby, reduces crying, and more specifically, it helps the infant reach a peaceful and drowsy state sooner. Appropriate skin to skin contact can also enhance the breast-feeding process by resolving any latch problems that may occur. This type of touch is also very good for the newborns’ health and development. It can improve neurodevelopment, increase IQ, and lower rates of aggression. Skin-to-skin contact can regulate baby's body temperature, improve their sleep patterns, and even steady their heart rates. If the infant’s heart rate is more relaxed through the physical touch, it can lessen the baby’s pain and stress as well. Overall, it is important to recognize the positive effects and benefits that physical touch between the mother and newborn baby can have on the entire family unit.
Babies in the NICU
Sometimes our newborns have health complications at birth and need to spend some time in the NICU. This can cause a decrease in traditional physical touch due to many barriers. One of the common barriers includes parents not always able to be present at the hospital. Additionally, many intensive care units have visitation policies that may prevent siblings and/or family members under the age of three from seeing the newborn in the hospital. Lastly, oftentimes babies in the NICU must undergo medical procedures and have limited capability to physical touch due to incubators or machine monitors. If approved by the NICU medical team to be acceptable and safe, providing these little NICU babies with physical touch is extremely important and can drastically improve their health and development, even a small hand hold.
In general, skin-to-skin contact has so many health benefits for both mama and baby, increasing attachment and overall bonding. It's lovely, it's snuggly, it's magically cozy for the newest addition of the family to thrive. Kangaroo care can support our littlest heroes, and our fullest chunky babies the moment your baby is born. It's a gift for all babies and parents!
Practical tips YOU can do with your newborn to increase skin-to-skin contact:
Hold your baby's little hands or have him/her hold your finger
Rub your little one's back as they begin to fall asleep
Gently pat your newborn's little bum to calm them down when crying
Lay him/her directly on your chest with skin-to-skin contact (kangaroo care)