If you’re a new or expecting parent, you’ve probably come across the phrase “skin-to-skin” a few times as you read up on all things parenting.
Also referred to as SSC, skin-to-skin is an important practice that should be prioritized as soon as possible after birth, with benefits that extend long after baby is born.
So, what is skin-to-skin? How is it beneficial for you and your baby? How long do you need to practice skin-to-skin for it to have a positive impact on your little one? We’ve got all the answers below.
Skin-to-skin is exactly what it sounds like. It’s when you lay your baby, belly side down, directly on your chest with no clothing between you.
Normally this happens immediately after delivering your baby, and it’s encouraged that you continue to practice skin-to-skin even as your little one gets older. Think of it as intensive cuddling time with your newborn.
Skin-to-skin is highly encouraged because it promotes bonding between parents and their baby. Especially for newborns, it helps them to feel safe and to connect with their caretakers.
Besides helping both babies and their parents to bond with each other, there is a wealth of other benefits that come from practicing skin-to-skin.
Benefits for mom
Not only does skin-to-skin help to promote healthy bonding, but for moms who plan to breastfeed, it can help to make the nursing process easier for both mom and baby.
For moms, skin-to-skin can help those maternal instincts kick in.
Benefits for baby
Mom isn’t the only one who benefits from consistent skin-to-skin time. For newborns, this is a critical practice that shouldn’t be delayed.
Experts agree that the birthing process can be a traumatic one — and not just for mom. Engaging in skin-to-skin shortly after giving birth works as a stress reliever for babies, as well as helping the baby’s bodily functions work better.
The result was better oxygen saturation levels, stable blood glucose levels, and reduced cortisol levels in babies’ saliva. Skin-to-skin can even work to help your newborn regulate their temperature.
Benefits for dad
Moms and babies aren’t the only ones who should be practicing skin-to-skin. Dads should also engage in this activity often. Just like for mom, spending a little time skin-to-skin with their babies
Likewise, those paternal instincts are triggered through consistent skin-to-skin time. And just like with mom, spending time with dad also helps baby to regulate their temperature and heartbeat.
Often, dads are asked to step in for the initial skin-to-skin time if their baby is born via C-section. (That said, if the surgery has no complications, moms may be able to snuggle with their baby skin-to skin right away.)
Experts agree that skin-to-skin should start as soon as a baby is born— especially for those born vaginally. In some cases, it can happen as soon as the umbilical cord has been clamped.
Often a baby isn’t even wiped off before they’re placed on their mother’s chest. And more importantly, mom and baby should have at least an hour of uninterrupted skin-to-skin time in those first moments to ensure both of them reap the most benefits.
But even if you have a baby via cesarean delivery, it’s possible to engage in skin-to skin as soon as your baby is born.
Skin-to-skin should be continued in the weeks after you and baby are back home. Experts at the Cleveland Clinic suggest that skin-to-skin can help breastfeeding moms read their babies’ hunger cues and encourage babies to nurse.
It can also help calm and soothe your little one and even enhance brain development in those early weeks — whether mom or dad is doing the skin-to-skin cuddling.
While there isn’t much research on the benefits of this practice with older babies, there’s no official reason to stop it unless your child is too wiggly or no longer interested. Older babies and toddlers are more likely to communicate when they want to be held, so focus on those cues.
If you’re about to be a first-time parent, the benefits of skin-to-skin contact can’t be overstated.
Besides helping to create a lasting bond between you and your little one, the practice can also help your baby transition from the womb to the outside world, improve your post-birth recovery, and even make breastfeeding easier.
So, make sure you talk with your partner and include skin-to-skin in your birth plan. Clearly explain your goals with the birthing staff to prioritize skin-to-skin after birth. You’ll be glad you did.