A lot of delicious stuff happens when you hold your baby, especially skin-to-skin. And the perks aren't just for the baby, but for Mama, too. In fact, some of these effects are seen when ANY person holds a baby.
Essentially, holding a baby is like Magic Sparkle Unicorn Hormone Juice for all parties involved. (Wait, does that mean we made juice from Unicorn hormones? Gross. [But also kinda cool.])
Let’s check it out!
The Effects on Baby
1. Establishes a nice, regular heart-beat.
2. Helps baby deal with pain. (like during vaccinations, the PKU test, big brother pinches, etc)
“SSC (Skin-to-skin care) appears to be effective, as measured by composite pain indicators and including both physiological and behavioural indicators, and safe for a single painful procedure such as a heel lance.”
3. Baby’s blood sugar improves.
“Skin-to-skin contact appears to provide an optimal environment for fetal to neonatal adaptation after birth and can help to maintain body temperature and adequate blood glucose levels in healthy term newborn infants, as well as providing an ideal opportunity to establish early bonding behaviours.”
4. Baby cries less! Holla!
5. Baby sleeps waaaay better.
6. Baby stays warmer.
Compared with incubators and warming lights, skin-to-skin raises the baby’s temperature a full degree (Celsius!) and does so faster!
7. Helps to regulate Baby's respirations (breathing rate).
“during SSC, respiratory control of the premature infant is influenced by the caregiver's cardiac rhythm. We propose that the caregiver's heartbeat causes sensory perturbations of the infant via somatic or other afferents, revealing a novel cohabitation-induced feed-back mechanism of respiratory control in the neonate.”
8. Baby’s Autonomic Nervous System (Physiologic Stress Response) calms down.
9. Better Bugs! Babies pick up useful bacteria from mama’s skin, diversifying their microbiota.
10. More blood flow to baby’s brain! Hey hey!
11. And that brain can handle more stress.
12. Diaper changes are less stressful!
(If you’re curious exactly how you change a baby while it’s on a person, look at the tiny images here.)
Not just for mothers!
It's reassuring to know that many of these improvements are true, even if baby is held by the Father. It doesn't have to be the mother every time. (The benefits may be true of other care-givers or female partners. However, this review was focused specifically on biological fathers.)
“Father-infant skin-to-skin contact had positive impacts on infants' outcomes, including temperature and pain, bio-physiological markers, behavioural response, as well as paternal outcomes, which include parental role attainment, paternal interaction behaviour, and paternal stress and anxiety.”
And if Baby is Pre-term (premature?):
1. It changes their entire first decade.
2. It can save the baby’s life.
They found “among newborns weighing less than 2000 grams (4.4 pounds) who survived to receive Kangaroo Mother Care, there was a 36% reduction in mortality and 47% lower risk of sepsis or major infection. “
3. It can help protect the infant from MRSA (Antibiotic-resistant staph).
The Effects on Mom:
1. Mom chills out.
2. Oxytocin HIGH.
Just the baby’s hands on mom’s chest helps with breastfeeding and Oxytocin release. “The findings indicate that the newborns use their hands as well as their mouths to stimulate maternal oxytocin release after birth, which may have significance for uterine contraction, milk ejection, and mother-infant interaction.”
3. Mom feels more confident and secure.
4. Daily skin-to-skin contact reduces maternal depression.
5. Reduces stress hormones for mother OR partner.
6. Early Skin-to-skin strengthens interactions at 6 months.
7. Boosts Partner's Perception of Role as an Equal parent.
Newborn bottoms are the best.
So take that diaper off! Or leave it on (and strip 'em down otherwise) Put baby on your chest, or your partner's chest, or your friend's chest while you take a nap.
In fact, here's a great primer for the logistics.
What a sweet gift for yourself and your little one to have those moments in a mutually beneficial symbiosis of Unicorn Hormone Juice and Love.
*These lists are not exhaustive. Seriously, there’s SO MANY GOOD things beyond even this.