Skin-to-Skin Contact: Benefits for You and Your Baby


Placing your baby skin-to-skin on your body has been scientifically proven to be one of the best things you can do. Numerous research studies have found benefit after benefit from spending time with your newborn in skin-to-skin contact. This sharing of love and touch helps by decreasing stress in both baby and parents, allowing you to learn about each other through touch, sight, smell, and hearing. Skin-to-skin contact also promotes bonding and breastfeeding, stabilizes baby’s body temperature, heartbeat, breathing, and blood oxygen levels, strengthens baby’s digestion and immune systems, and encourages baby to spend more time in deep sleep and quiet alert states. It also produces a stronger milk supply in breastfeeding moms and reduces postpartum bleeding. Skin-to-skin contact is recommended by leading organizations, including the World Health Organization, American Academy of Pediatrics, and Neonatal Resuscitation Program.

Key Takeaways:

  • Skin-to-skin contact promotes bonding and breastfeeding.
  • It stabilizes baby’s vital signs and strengthens their immune system.
  • It encourages deep sleep and quiet alert states in babies.
  • It enhances the milk supply in breastfeeding moms.
  • Leading organizations recommend skin-to-skin contact for newborn care.

The History of Skin-to-Skin Contact

In the 1970s, the concept of skin-to-skin contact found its roots in South America through the pioneering work of two physicians in Bogotá, Colombia. Faced with a shortage of incubators to care for premature babies, these doctors developed the kangaroo mother method as an alternative solution. The babies were placed directly on their mothers’ bodies, and an exterior wrap was used to provide warmth and comfort.

The results were astounding. The babies thrived under this care, and the technique soon became known as kangaroo care. Kangaroo care not only involved the skin-to-skin contact, but also included breastfeeding support and earlier hospital discharge. The success of this method led to its widespread adoption and endorsement by leading medical organizations.

“In the 1970s, the kangaroo mother method was introduced in Bogotá, Colombia, to provide optimal care for premature babies.”

This approach, also known as kangaroo care, has become synonymous with skin-to-skin contact and is now recognized as a valuable practice in newborn care. The benefits of kangaroo care extend beyond premature infants, benefitting term babies as well. The practice promotes bonding between parent and baby, supports breastfeeding, and contributes to overall well-being.

Benefits of Kangaroo Care References
Promotes bonding between parent and baby 1
Supports breastfeeding 2
Helps regulate baby’s body temperature, heartbeat, and breathing 3
Strengthens baby’s digestion and immune system 4
Improves sleep patterns 5
  1. Reference 1: Altimier L, Philips R. “The Neonatal Integrative Developmental Care Model: Seven Neuroprotective Core Measures for Family-Centered Developmental Care.” Newborn and Infant Nursing Reviews. 2016;16(4):250–255.
  2. Reference 2: World Health Organization. “Protecting, Promoting, and Supporting Breastfeeding in Facilities Providing Maternity and Newborn Services: The Revised Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative 2018.” Geneva: World Health Organization; 2018.
  3. Reference 3: Feldman R, Eidelman AI. “Skin-to-Skin Contact (Kangaroo Care) Accelerates Autonomic Maturation in Preterm Infants.” Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology. 2003 Jul;45(7):439–44.
  4. Reference 4: Moore ER, Anderson GC, Bergman N, et al. “Early Skin-to-Skin Contact for Mothers and Their Healthy Newborn Infants.” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2012 May 16;(5):CD003519.
  5. Reference 5: Ludington-Hoe SM, Morgan K, Abouelfettoh A. “A Clinical Guideline for Implementing Kangaroo Care With Premature Infants of 30 or More Weeks’ Postmenstrual Age.” Advances in Neonatal Care. 2008;8(3 Suppl):S3–S23.

The Benefits of Skin-to-Skin Contact in the Neonatal Unit

Skin-to-skin contact, also known as kangaroo care, is particularly crucial in neonatal units. It offers numerous benefits for both premature and full-term infants. Let’s explore how this practice promotes growth, bonding, and breastfeeding, while also potentially reducing hospital stays.

Promoting Growth and Development

Skin-to-skin contact in the neonatal unit has been linked to improved oxygen saturation levels in babies, which supports healthy growth and development. It also helps reduce cortisol levels, which are associated with stress. By minimizing stress, skin-to-skin care provides a calm and nurturing environment for infants, aiding in their overall growth and well-being.

Encouraging Pre-Feeding Behaviors

One of the wonderful benefits of kangaroo care is its ability to encourage pre-feeding behavior in newborns. The close contact with the parent’s warm body stimulates the baby’s natural instincts, making them more receptive to breastfeeding. This early initiation of breastfeeding sets the foundation for a successful breastfeeding journey.

Promoting Bonding and Hospital Stay Reduction

The skin-to-skin contact between parents and babies in the neonatal unit promotes bonding and strengthens the parent-infant relationship. This physical and emotional connectedness is vital for both babies and their parents during the early days and weeks of their hospital stay. Studies have also suggested that skin-to-skin care may contribute to a shorter hospital stay, as it helps stabilize the baby’s vital signs and improves overall infant health.

For infants who are unable to have immediate skin-to-skin contact in the neonatal unit, there are alternative practices that can help promote bonding, nutrition, and comfort. These include pumping breastmilk, providing cloth or clothing with the parent’s scent, and incorporating touch-based bonding activities.

The positive effects of skin-to-skin contact in the neonatal unit extend beyond bonding and growth. It also has a significant impact on breastfeeding. Research has shown increased milk volume in breastfeeding mothers who practice kangaroo care, as well as the presence of up-to-date antibodies in expressed milk. This benefit is crucial for the long-term health and immune system development of newborns.

Overall, skin-to-skin contact or kangaroo care should be encouraged and supported in neonatal units. It provides a multitude of benefits, including promoting growth, bonding, breastfeeding, and potentially reducing hospital stays. Let’s keep embracing this beautiful practice to ensure the best possible start for our little ones.

Neonatal unit


Skin-to-skin contact is an essential practice for promoting bonding, breastfeeding, and overall maternal well-being. This simple yet powerful technique has been recommended by leading organizations and has been proven to yield numerous benefits for both babies and parents.

By engaging in skin-to-skin care, parents can reduce stress levels and stabilize vital signs, creating a soothing environment for their newborns. Additionally, this practice strengthens the infant’s immune system, encourages better sleep patterns, and promotes a stronger milk supply in breastfeeding mothers.

Whether in the hospital or at home, all parents should be encouraged to embrace skin-to-skin contact as an opportunity for calm and present connection with their child. It can be incorporated during feeding times, whether breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, always prioritizing the safety and well-being of the baby.

In conclusion, skin-to-skin care is a vital component of newborn care that supports the crucial aspects of bonding, breastfeeding, and overall maternal well-being. Its numerous benefits make it an indispensable practice for parents seeking to establish a deep and nurturing connection with their newborn.


What is skin-to-skin contact?

Skin-to-skin contact is a practice in which a newborn baby is placed on the bare chest of a parent or caregiver, with direct skin contact between the two. It allows for physical closeness and bonding between the baby and the parent.

What are the benefits of skin-to-skin contact?

Skin-to-skin contact has numerous benefits for both the baby and the parent. It helps decrease stress, promote bonding and breastfeeding, stabilize vital signs, strengthen digestion and immune systems, encourage better sleep, and reduce postpartum bleeding in mothers.

When should I start practicing skin-to-skin contact with my baby?

Skin-to-skin contact can be initiated immediately after birth, as long as both the baby and the parent are medically stable. It is encouraged as a regular practice during feeding times, both for breastfeeding and bottle-feeding.

Can skin-to-skin contact be practiced in the neonatal unit?

Yes, skin-to-skin contact, often referred to as kangaroo care, is especially important in the neonatal unit. It has been found to improve oxygen saturation, reduce stress levels in babies, encourage pre-feeding behavior, assist with growth, and may even reduce the hospital stay.

What if my baby is unable to have immediate skin-to-skin contact in the neonatal unit?

If immediate skin-to-skin contact is not possible, alternative practices such as pumping breastmilk, providing cloth or clothing with the parent’s scent, and touch-based bonding can help promote bonding, nutrition, and comfort until skin-to-skin care can be achieved.

Is skin-to-skin contact recommended by medical organizations?

Yes, skin-to-skin contact is recommended by leading organizations, including the World Health Organization, American Academy of Pediatrics, and Neonatal Resuscitation Program. It is recognized for its numerous benefits and its role in promoting bonding, breastfeeding, and overall maternal well-being.

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