What is Skin to Skin Care?

by Kim Walls, mom and creator/owner of BabyTime by Episencial.  This post made possible by the generous support of BabyTime Episencials.

Kangaroo Care
The most classic definition of ‘Skin-to-Skin Care’ (which is the same as ‘Kangaroo Care’) refers specifically to sessions of 60 minutes of continuous touch between baby and mom in the first moments, hours and days after baby is born. First, baby is placed on mother’s chest immediately after birth, where the cascade of normal hormonal physiological benefits will occur. Baby will show nine distinct stages of bonding including relaxation, crawling (Yes! A newborn will actually wiggle towards the breast!) and rooting to suckle.
The latest research shows that while the 60 minute time frame recommended for classic Kangaroo Care is important, it touches on just a fraction of the benefits available to baby and mom from a more comprehensive understanding of skin to skin care. Even six seconds of skin to skin touch is often enough to raise the ‘love’ and ‘bonding’ hormone oxytocin, which could make breastfeeding easier and reduce the symptoms of postpartum depression. Additionally, it is within the first 48 hours after birth that baby’s skin is first colonized with the beneficial bacteria that will help keep her dermal microflora (skin surface bacteria) in protective balance.
The immediate separation that’s typical in most U.S. hospitals may not be as ideal as time spent snuggling together – skin to skin – for at least 60 minutes immediately after birth, and as much as possible for the first 48 hours. Studies have shown that even brain development is enhanced in babies who had ample skin to skin contact in those early hours and weeks after being born. Your baby instinctively knows that nestling into your chest is the best place she could be.
The natural colonization of baby’s skin with the same bacteria as found on mom’s skin, plus breastfeeding, are thought to help prevent allergic reactions in baby as she ages. Skin to skin closeness with Mom, immediately after birth and beyond, are critical to support breastfeeding and the proper microflora colonization. It also helps bring baby’s heart rate, temperature, blood pressure and breathing rates back to normal after the stimulation of being born. Babies experience stress as they go through the birthing process. After birth and for a long time after, the healthiest place to be is on mom’s chest.

As baby gets older, there are plenty of opportunities for parents to share increased skin to skin contact time, through baby massage, giving baby a bath, taking a nap together, or just playing simple games together (Peek a boo with baby in your lap and a board book!)

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Did you use Kangaroo Care with your little ones?

How do you enjoy skin-to-skin time with your little ones still?

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References:

Lozoff B, Brittenham GM, Trause MA, Kennell JH, Klaus MH. The mother-newborn relationship: limits of adaptability. J Pediatr 1977 July;91(1):1-12.

Lozoff B, Brittenham G. Infant care: cache or carry. J Pediatr 1979 September;95(3):478-83.

Morton D, Thierry B, Peretta G, Lankeit M, Ljungberg T, van Hooff J A R A M, and Scott L. The welfare of non-human primates used in research. Report of the Scientific Committee on Animal health and Animal Welfare.  European Commission Health and Consumer Prtoection Directorate-general; 2002 Dec 17.

McKenna JJ, Mosko S. Evolution and infant sleep: an experimental study of infant-parent co-sleeping and its implications for SIDS. Acta Paediatr Suppl 1993 June;82 Suppl 389:31-6.

McKenna JJ, Thoman EB, Anders TF, Sadeh A, Schechtman VL, Glotzbach SF. Infant-parent co-sleeping in an evolutionary perspective: implications for understanding infant sleep development and the sudden infant death syndrome. Sleep 1993 April;16(3):263-82.

Laughlin CD. Pre- and Perinatal brain Development and enculturation: a biogenetic structural approach.  1991.

Schore AN. Effects of a secure attachment relationship on right brain development, affect regulation, and infant mental health. Infant Mental Health Journal 2001;22(1-2):7-66.

Bates E, Thal D, Finlay B, Clancy B. Early language development and its neural correlates. In: Rapin I, Segalowitz S, editors. Handbook of Neuropsychology. 2nd edition ed. Amsterdam: Elsevier; 2005.

Doussard-Rossevelt J, Porges SW, McClenny BD. Behavioral sleep states in very low birth weight preterm neonates: relation to neonatal health and vagal maturation. J Pediatr Psychol 1996 December;21(6):785-802.

J Investig Dermatol Symp Proc. 2001 Dec;6(3):170-4.

Skin microflora and bacterial infections of the skin.

Chiller K, Selkin BA, Murakawa GJ.

J Appl Microbiol. 2013 May;114(5):1241-53. doi: 10.1111/jam.12137. Epub 2013 Feb 1.

Bioactives from probiotics for dermal health: functions and benefits.

Lew LC, Liong MT.

PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e53867. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0053867. Epub 2013 Jan 16.

Probiotic bacteria induce a ‘glow of health’.

Levkovich T, Poutahidis T, Smillie C, Varian BJ, Ibrahim YM, Lakritz JR, Alm EJ, Erdman SE.

Clin Microbiol Rev. 2003 October; 16(4): 658–672.

Potential Uses of Probiotics in Clinical Practice

Gregor Reid,1,2,3,* Jana Jass,1,2 M. Tom Sebulsky,2 and John K. McCormick1,2

Clin Microbiol Infect. 2005 Dec;11(12):958-66.

Probiotics: facts and myths.

Senok AC, Ismaeel AY, Botta GA.

Garcia Bartels N, Mleczko A, Schink T, Proquitte H, Wauer RR, Blume-Peytavi U. Influence of bathing or washing on skin barrier function in newborns during the first four weeks of life. Skin Pharmacology. 2009;22:248–257.

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Comments

  1. The NICU nurses and lactation consultants at Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital in Richmond, VA taught me about skin to skin nearly 12 years ago, when my son Joshua was in the NICU for 3 weeks. It not only helped him and me, but it also enabled me to produce plenty of milk to give him. He couldn’t physically nurse at first, but he got the milk through a NGtube. And with lots more skin to skin and time at the breast every feeding, he eventually was able to get the milk straight from me, despite never actually latching on (he never had lip closure- but I leaked into his mouth as he kind of gnawed on me.) he got no formula ever, and breastfed until 18 months. All thanks to those great nurses and LCs at St Mary’s.

    To make an even better story, we now have a second son, Jacob! He was born last November at Bon Secours St.Francis Hospital in Midlothian,VA. The nurses and LCs there also advocated skin to skin time. We were blessed to avoid the NICU this time, and brought him home at only 2 days old! We still use skin to skin sometimes. When we have a rough day, nursing skin to skin in the bath is a miracle cure!

  2. There are so many nuggets in this post! I love the wriggle to breast as a baby rests on the belly or chest. It seems to be one of those early and glorious opportunities to be supported and nurtured while given the freedom to choose where to go to receive what you need.

    You mentioned the colonization on the skin from mom to babe…can you say a bit about bathing the newborn?

  3. “it is within the first 48 hours after birth that baby’s skin is first colonized with the beneficial bacteria that will help keep her dermal microflora (skin surface bacteria) in protective balance.”

    This is why it is best to avoid bathing the baby while still in the hospital!

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