Healthy Children Project, Inc., Inc.
Harwich, MA 02645
Tel: (508) 888-8044

Skin-to-Skin: Important and Vital

skin-to-skin skin-to-skin skin-to-skin

As the evidence of the benefits of breastfeeding and the risks of not breastfeeding mounts, improving breastfeeding rates has become an increasingly important public health strategy for promoting optimal health among mothers and their babies (American Public Health Association, 2007; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2005; Obama, 2010). The practice of placing newborns skin-to-skin within minutes of birth and remaining there uninterrupted through the first breastfeeding has been shown to increase the rate of exclusive breastfeeding when mothers and babies are discharged from the hospital. Placing newborns skin-to skin with the mother immediately after birth and encouraging them to support the infant to breastfeed when ready has become the standard of care described in the World Health Organization/UNICEF Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (continued in current revision in 2018). Evidence also shows that providing opportunities for premature babies to spend time in skin-to-skin contact with their parents over the days and weeks after birth provides similar benefits. Premature infants display the same feeding cues and go through the same stages as full-term infants, but may take more time to do so.

Skin-to-Skin: A Critical Component for Newborns

Advances in knowledge and skill regarding labor and birth allow most mothers to safely experience the birth of their baby awake and aware. The stages of labor are well known and well documented. The process of cesarean surgery has become routine. Recent research has helped us understand that being in skin-to-skin contact with the mother during the first hour after birth for full-term babies, and in the subsequent days and weeks for preterm babies, is a critical component in providing behaviorally-appropriate, individualized, baby-adapted care.

Why is continuous, uninterrupted, skin-to-skin contact beginning immediately after birth important to the baby? 

This is a developmentally-distinct time for the baby and there are well documented short and long term physical and psychological advantages when the baby is held skin-to-skin during this time.

The baby who is held skin-to-skin...

Benefits for Baby

Benefits to Mother

Implementing skin-to-skin in the first hour after birth at your hospital

Healthy Children provides a number of resources to help assist staff with implementing skin-to-skin in the first hourfor full-term babies, and later on in the NICU for preterm babies. The video Skin-to-Skin in the First Hour After Birth: Practical Advice for Staff after Vaginal and Cesarean Birth is an excellent source of support for staff. The Magical Hour: Holding Your Baby SKin-to-Skin in the First Hour After Birth is perfect for parents, providing them a realistic view of what it means to spend that first hour in direct uninterrupted contact with their baby. In addition, we offer consulting services using the PRECESS method, working side by side with staff to make appropriate changes that may be unique to the hospital's situation. The 9 Stages of Premature Infants DVD offers a glimpe at the benefits skin-to-skin contact can provide for vulnerable preterm babies and their parents, and advice for staff on how to implement changes to allow for more opportunities for closeness between parents and babies in the NICU. Our experts also are available for Keynote speeches. Call or email for more information.