Kangaroo care: Why skin-to-skin contact with baby is vital

Close skin-to-skin contact between parents and their baby offers countless benefits for everyone.

Babies- Kangaroo care Why skin-to-skin contact with baby is vital-1
When Selina Ibrahim’s newborn was two weeks old, the once quiet and sleepy little nipper started crying for hours on end. Nothing mum or dad did consoled him.

More breastfeeding, songs or walks in the pram only worked for a few minutes before the little boy’s face crumpled up and his wails were heard throughout the neighbourhood. His parents were stressed out and at a loss for what to do.

Then, a mummy friend suggested that Selina strip her baby down to his diapers, remove her top and place him against her chest. When she did this, her little one calmed down almost immediately. “It was the first time I had heard about kangaroo care and its effects. My son and I had some skin-to-skin time right after delivery, but no one told me I could carry on doing it.”

Her little boy loved that intimate time with mummy and Selina soon realised it was a sure-fire way to soothe him. “It also meant it was the only way he would fall asleep for the first few months ― yes, it was exhausting to have him on me for that many hours. But I loved that a simple act like that could make such a big difference, so I didn’t mind that much,” she adds.

This simple act [kangaroo care] is said to increase bonding between mummy and her mini-me in the early days after birth and helps to establish breastfeeding.

Skin-to-skin contact and it’s benefits

Skin-to-skin contact between a parent and baby is also known as kangaroo care. This simple act is said to increase bonding between mummy and her mini-me in the early days after birth and helps to establish breastfeeding.

“It is recommended that, as soon as the baby is stabilised after birth, the baby should be laid onto the mother’s bare skin over her chest, provided the mother is also well enough to tolerate it,” notes Dr Natalie Ann Epton, a paediatrician and neonatologist at Mount Elizabeth Hospital.

Once bubba is lying naked on mum’s bare skin, Dr Epton recommends draping warm blankets to cover both the baby and mummy, so that they won’t lose heat. Don’t worry, C-section mamas, you won’t be left out of this all-important snuggle session.

“Skin-to-skin contact can be offered in the operating theatre, provided that the mother and baby are both stable and well,” says Dr Epton. “The greatest challenge in the operating theatre is ensuring that babies don’t become too cold, as operating theatres are often kept quite cool. I generally do not offer more than 5 to 10 minutes of skin-to-skin contact within the theatre, before removing the baby to a warmer environment.”

Mother and baby should continue to cuddle in close physical contact for the first hour of life, also known as the Golden Hour. Doing so is critical to the child’s growth and development. It helps baby to regulate his internal temperature, normalises his heartbeat rate and breathing, regulates his blood glucose levels and reduces his stress and response to painful stimuli.

In fact, it’s so important that Dr Epton says that Golden Hour shouldn’t be interrupted for non-urgent tasks, such as weighing or measuring the baby, which can be delayed until after mum and baby have completed the first hour of skin-to-skin contact.