Skincare for Baby
How Skin-to-Skin Contact Benefits Baby—and Parents, too
Enjoying plenty of skin-to-skin contact during your first weeks at home together doesn’t just feel good—it also provides known scientific benefits. Learn how “kangaroo care” enhances your baby’s early emotional development while you and your little one bond. 1
What You Need to Know
Three Ways To Maximize Skin-to-Skin Time
- Start right away: Engage in skin-to-skin contact right after birth (or as soon after as possible), ideally for at least an hour at a stretch.3 Recent research showed benefit to baby within the first three days of skin-to-skin care.4
- Take turns: Kangaroo care isn’t just for moms—both moms and dads can strengthen their bond with baby by engaging in some bare-skin contact.5
What is Kangaroo Care?
Skin-to-skin contact has been dubbed kangaroo care because it mimics a kangaroo mother carrying her offspring (or joey) in her pouch. Of course, humans don’t have pouches, but placing your undressed baby on your bare chest, and then covering them with a blanket or your robe, helps to mimic the feeling of warmth and security.6
This trend took hold in the 1970s when researchers noted that preterm babies who enjoyed regular skin-to-skin contact with their mothers thrived. Since then, it’s been recommended not only for preemies, but also for full-term babies. The health benefits are many, and they don’t just extend to babies. Research shows that mothers and fathers reap emotional and physical bonuses, too.7
3 Ways Kangaroo Care Benefits Parents
Helps foster a bond with your baby: Ever experienced that feeling of deep love when your baby is snug against your chest? There’s a hormonal reason for that. Skin-to-skin contact causes a surge in oxytocin, a hormone that leads to feelings of love. It’s not just for mothers; fathers can hold baby against their bare chest and reap the same reward.8 Research indicates that this oxytocin increase can be measured within three days of birth.9
Helps with breastfeeding: A study in the journal Neonatology showed that moms who engaged in skin-to-skin contact were more successful in breastfeeding. In fact, 90 percent of them continued breastfeeding exclusively for at least six weeks.10
Helps decrease new-parent anxiety: Whether you’ve just experienced a complicated, stressful birth, or you’re feeling anxious about caring for your newborn, kangaroo-care may help. One study has shown that skin-to-skin contact reduced maternal stress for new mothers in the NICU.11
Ways Kangaroo Care Benefits Baby
May reduce stress: Skin-to-skin contact lowers cortisol levels in babies, also known as the stress hormone.12
Encourages better sleep: Preterm babies who had skin-to-skin contact slept better than babies who didn’t, according to a study published in Pediatrics.13
You can start kangaroo care right after delivery, by having baby placed on your bare chest, and continue it when you're at home together for as long as you’re both enjoying it. Both parents can trade off having skin-to-skin time with baby at home.
- Safari, K., Saeed, A., Hasan, S., Moghaddar-Banaem, L. (2018). The effect of mother and newborn early skin-to-skin contact on initiation of breastfeeding, newborn temlierature and duration of third stage of labor. International Breastfeeding Journal. 13(32).
- Chen, E., Gau, M., Liu, C., Lee, T. (2017). Effects of Father-Neonate Skin-to-Skin Contact on Attachment: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Nursing Research &amli; Practice. 2017 (8612024).
- Pados, B. (2019). Physiology of Stress and Use of Skin-to-Skin Care as a Stress-Reducing Intervention in the NICU. Nursing Women’s Health Journal. 23 (1), 59-70.