Benefits of Skin-to-Skin Contact During Infancy
JUNE 3, 2019
When my first child was born, they immediately placed her on my bare chest for an hour of uninterrupted skin-to-skin time. At that particular hospital, they call it the “Sacred Hour”. The doctor informed my husband and me that the sacred hour meant keeping the room quiet for the baby to hear only our voices. She would be placed on my chest with no testing, cleaning, or interruptions for a whole hour. It allowed us to promptly begin bonding with our baby. “Skin-to-skin contact helps your baby stay warm, relax, transition, breathe easier, as well as promote breastfeeding” (Labor & Delivery). For us, this was a wonderful start to our bonding experience with our daughter. However, bonding does not stop after that hour ends. It is an ongoing process that happens every day you are caring for your child. “You may not even know it’s happening until you observe your baby’s first smile and suddenly realize that you’re filled with love and joy” (Ben-Joseph, 2018).
With the birth of my second child, they too placed him immediately on my chest. However, he was not breathing correctly and was quickly rushed into the NICU. We were not able to have the bonding benefit of the sacred hour. For three days, I was only able to visit him and usually, if he was sleeping I would just watch him from inside the isolette. This separation was a setback at the start of our bonding journey. Although we had this setback in the beginning, I was still able to talk to him and allow him to start recognizing my voice. I would sometimes reach in and hold his hand through a window on the isolette to familiarize my touch. Eventually, I was able to implement skin-to-skin contact through breastfeeding to help promote our relationship even further.
The bond between parents and their children is critical to a child’s emotional, social, and cognitive development.
Infants brains undergo so much growth in the first few years of life and they absorb so much of what is going on around them. According to Robert Winston and Rebecca Chicot, “There is increasing evidence from the fields of development psychology, neurobiology and animal epigenetic studies that neglect, parental inconsistency and a lack of love can lead to long-term mental health problems as well as to reduced overall potential and happiness” (2016).
When babies are born, they are so limited to the things they can do on their own. They depend on someone else to feed, cloth, wash, change, and entertain them. Even years later, the bonding journey with my children continues. We bond daily as we cuddle, make eye contact, or even facial expressions at each other. Usually, our bonding is unintentional, such as a diaper change that quickly turns into a tickle match.
Showing your child you are there for them by loving them and doing these small, yet significant tasks will grow your attachment and strengthen your bond. “Bonding is a complex, personal experience that takes time. There’s no magic formula and it can’t be forced” (Ben-Joseph, 2018).
What were your experiences with skin-to-skin contact and bonding with your newborn?