Pregnancy can be a bit of a whirlwind of emotions, hormones and sometimes stress. Some women assume that when they give birth, the body and mind will work their magic and you will feel that immediate connection to your little one. However, for some women bonding can prove to be difficult and in some cases, this may be down to distressing conditions like postnatal depression or even postpartum psychosis.
Even if everything runs smoothly, bonding is a vital part of a parent-child relationship that benefits from constant strengthening. Luckily, there is something really easy you can do to help you.
Most mums love cuddling their little one or holding them close and cuddles aren’t just fun! Skin-to-skin contact is a great way to bond with your newborn and has a health boost for both of you.
What is skin-to-skin?
Skin-to-skin is a method recommended by both the NHS and NCT for it's bonding benefits. After birth, the baby is placed directly on the mother's chest. If the room is not very warm you can then lie a blanket over the top of them or pop them in a tiny little hat to keep them toasty. If you are breastfeeding, skin-to-skin will also encourage the baby to 'root' around to find the breast on their own.
According to the NCT "Skin-to-skin contact is still possible even if you've had a caesarean or epidural – you may just need a little extra support to hold your baby if you are numb. If you are very tired or unwell, your baby will still benefit from close contact with your birth partner". Skin-to-skin is most beneficial in the early days and weeks, but most babies and mums love this type of close contact and benefit from it months after.
If you weren't already convinced supermodel Natalia Vodianova once posted on Instagram a pic of herself feeding baby Maxim in the buff. And while we can’t promise it’ll give you supermodel looks, skin-to-skin contact does have several benefits for you and your baby...
The benefits of skin-to-skin:
‘Holding your baby’s bare chest to your own after birth and in the first months helps you tune into their needs,’ says Francesca Entwistle, advisor for UNICEF’s Baby Friendly Initiative.
1) You’ll work out what they want
New research shows it also encourages your baby’s brain to develop. It is hard to know what is going on in your newborn's brain but the way your baby bonds with you influences the way their brain organizes itself. Skin-to-skin can also help boost their emotional and social development.
2) It encourages your baby’s brain to develop
‘Skin-to-skin promotes oxytocin, the love hormone,’ says Francesca. It also reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
3) It keeps them calm
‘Birth is a stressful process for your baby. Skin contact helps regulate their heart rate and temperature,’ says paediatrician Dr Flaudia Petrone.
One recent study showed that blood glucose levels in newborns who had immediate skin-to-skin were at healthier levels than in those who didn’t.
4) It keeps their energy levels stable
After your baby is born, levels can dip if they aren't feeding well or are stressed.
Newborn babies are very prone to bugs and colds. ‘The womb is a sterile environment,’ says Dr Flaudia. ‘The bacteria on your skin colonises the baby and acts as an extra form of protection.’ Skin-to-skin is a controlled way for your baby to get used to the kind of bacteria and germs that they will soon be coming into contact with.
5) It boosts your baby’s immune system
Sometimes Dad's can feel a bit left out during pregnancy and after the birth. There are plenty of ways to make a new dad feel more involved (link) and skin-to-skin is one of them. It will intensify your partner’s bond with your baby too. It is good to know if you’ve had a c-section and feel guilty that you’re finding holding your baby uncomfortable you can hand them over to keep the love hormones flowing.
6) It helps dads bond
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