Dr Mohit Bansal
MBBS, PG Fellow – Family Medicine
Christian Medical College (CMC), Vellore – 5 years experience
While every mother has an unbreakable bond with her child, some parent-child relationships are stronger than others. In addition, as it turns out, 2 out of 5 children grow up lacking secure attachment to their parents. These children are more likely to do poorly in school and suffer from depression than children who are securely attached to their parents.
The easiest way to form a secure attachment is holding your newborn skin-to-skin. “Infancy sets up your interactions with your baby for the rest of their life”.
Bonus: Skin-to-skin contact does a lot more than promote bonding. Check out these benefits of kangaroo care.
1) It Helps Baby Adapt
“Thermal regulation is a very common problem with infants, especially preterm babies”. After all, when your baby was in the womb, she did not need to regulate her own temperature. Since your skin is the same temperature as the womb, Baby will find it easier to adapt to her post-birth environment.
2) It Boosts Baby’s Mental Development
Preemies who received kangaroo care had better brain functioning at 15 years old—comparable to that of adolescents born at term—than those who had been placed in incubators. By stabilizing heart rate, oxygenation, and improving sleep, the brain is better able to develop.
3) It Promotes Healthy Weight
In addition, skin-to-skin contact dramatically increases newborn weight gain. “When babies are warm, they don’t need to use their energy to regulate their body temperature.” “They can use that energy to grow instead.” In addition, kangarooed babies enjoy increased breastfeeding rates, which cannot hurt healthy weight gain.
4) It Makes Breastfeeding Easier
“New-borns instinctively have a heightened sense of smell, so placing your baby skin-to-skin helps her seek out the nipple and begin breastfeeding”. In fact, moms who practiced kangaroo care were more likely to breastfeed exclusively and, on average, these moms breastfed three months longer than those who did not practice skin-to-skin care.
5) It Helps You Make Milk
When mom and baby are together, hormones that regulate lactation balance out, helping you produce more milk.
6) It Reduces Baby’s Stress and Pain
Just 10 minutes of skin-to-skin contact reduces babies’ levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and increases levels of the “cuddle hormone” oxytocin, which stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system to make babies feel calm and safe. When preterm infants are held chest-to-chest, they react less to heel sticks, a minimally invasive way to draw blood, and a common source of pain among preemies.
7) It Helps Baby Sleep
Less stress = better sleep. Preemies who were cradled skin-to-skin slept more deeply and woke up less often than those who slept in incubators.
8) It Prevents Postpartum Depression
Various studies show that kangaroo care reduces postpartum depression. Activity in the mother’s adrenal axis is negatively influenced by childbirth, and skin-to-skin contact may reactivate the pathways to minimize the risk of depression. Plus oxytocin released from skin-to-skin care decreases maternal anxiety and promotes attachment, further reducing the risk.
9) How to Get the Benefits
When it comes to kangaroo care, more is better, the first two hours after birth are the most important, in terms of easing baby into the world.
After that, continued skin-to-skin contact can still be beneficial, especially for preemies that have low birth weights and are unable to regulate their own temperature. Consider it an alternative to an incubator. “Do it as long as both baby and parents enjoy it”. When your baby starts fussing and trying to get off your chest, it is a good sign it is time to let her do her own thing.