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Skin-to-Skin Contact

The Importance of Skin to Skin for Parents and Baby


You and your baby after birth

However you plan to feed your baby, skin to skin after birth is a really good way for you to start to get to know each other.

In the first few hours after birth, having uninterrupted skin to skin with your baby will help them to go through some important developmental stages.

You and Your Baby after birth

Important for baby

It’s not just for the first few hours though – whether you choose to breast or bottle feed, skin to skin has important functions for parent and baby throughout baby’s first year and beyond.

Skin to skin – ie baby stripped down to nappy and held against mum or dads bare chest, has been found to be very important for baby in:

  • Regulating their heartbeat - calming them down and soothing them
  • Regulating their temperature – skin to skin is an excellent way of keeping a baby nice and warm
  • Regulating their breathing - again calming and settling them 
  • Encouraging feeding – skin to skin stimulates a baby’s natural urge to feed, whether breast or bottle fed
  • Feeling safe, secure and close to their parent – with the smells, sounds and sensations they’re familiar with
  • Reducing stress – releasing calming hormones and comforting them when they’re upset
  • Being contented – a baby held and cuddled often tends to be more settled and less “clingy”, rather than becoming “spoilt” as some people fear

Important for Mother

It’s also important for mother too, in that it:

  • Regulates a mothers heartbeat and breathing
  • Develops the relationship between mother and baby and increases a mothers resilience to cope with the challenges the early days can bring
  • Encourages the release of hormones related to breastmilk supply and breastfeeding
  • It has also been found to have some pain-relieving properties for mother too, as she focuses on her baby held close to her face

Important for Dad and other family members

For dad and other family members:

  • Skin to skin is good for other family members and baby too – calming them both, promoting bonding and giving other family members a really good way of comforting and soothing baby whilst mother rests
  • Amazingly, skin to skin with people other than mother can still stimulate a baby’s natural urge to feed, whether breast or bottle fed

For more information about the value of skin to skin go to the  Baby Friendly Initiative’s webpage, or ask your midwife, a Breastfeeding Support Worker or  Breastfeeding Peer Supporter.

For more information on how skin to skin can help you to get know your baby, visit our  getting to know your baby webpage.

Safety first!
While having skin to skin with your baby, it is very important to follow the principles in the ‘TICKS’ guidance sheet, to make sure you keep your baby safe.

In summary, it’s important for parents to know that:

  • There is a great deal of evidence of the benefits of skin to skin for both mothers and babies
  • Babies who are well when they are born should be laid skin to skin with the mother or parent, with close observation in the first minutes after birth
  • The checks used by your midwife to assess your newborn's health can be carried out during skin to skin contact, but skin to skin may need to be interrupted briefly for this for some babies
  • During skin to skin, your midwife will continue observation of mother and baby, and will let you know if either of you needs any additional care
  • A good position for mothers to adopt for skin to skin and feeding their baby is a ‘half lying, half sitting’ or ‘semi recumbent’ position, so that the mother can always see baby’s face
  • Your midwife will show you how to position your baby so that their airway is always clear and unobstructed
  • Your midwife will also have a conversation with you about recognising any changes in your baby’s condition, and will always listen to parents and respond immediately to any concerns 
  • As some types of pain relief given to mothers can affect their ability to observe and care for their baby, your midwife will discuss any medication given to the mother during labour or childbirth
  • In addition, any other risk factors will be considered and discussed with you, such as increased maternal BMI

If you would like any more information about skin to skin with your baby after birth, please speak to your midwife.

A Teaching Trust of the University of Birmingham