A few decades ago, if you delivered a baby in a hospital, the nurses would immediately whisk your newborn away to do all the necessary health checks, weighing, and measuring.
However, more recently, research has shown that immediate skin-to-skin contact is best for mother and baby post-birth. Not only do babies like sleeping on your chest – doing so has countless health benefits for parents and newborns!
If you recently gave birth, your doctor may have placed your baby on your chest as immediately as possible. Your newborn would likely have been dressed only in a diaper and placed chest to chest against you; head turned slightly sideways to allow for air passageways to be open. Your healthcare team might have placed prewarmed blankets over both of you.
Resting in this position for an hour after birth is now a much more common practice and is recommended for all mothers and babies, regardless of feeding or delivery method (if parent and baby health allows). If you’re pregnant and preparing to give birth, you may want to speak to your healthcare provider and make plans to ensure skin-to-skin contact is included in your post-birth protocol.
Even after you take your newborn home, skin-to-skin contact is a recommended daily practice. Full-term babies will benefit from this practice for three months, and you will want to practice this with premature babies for six months.
So how were the benefits of skin-to-skin contact discovered, and why is it so beneficial for parent and child?
Here is what you need to know about skin-to-skin contact in the first year.
What Is Skin-to-Skin Contact?
Skin-to-skin contact is a practice that most healthcare providers and pediatricians recommend to new parents.
Interestingly, the benefits of skin-to-skin were not always known or understood until more recently. In the 1970s, doctors in Bogota, Colombia, were searching for ways to keep premature babies healthy.
They did not have enough incubators to care for the number of prematurely born babies. So, the doctors tried placing the babies on their mother’s chests under warm blankets. The babies thrived, and the practice became known as “kangaroo care.”
Today, kangaroo care is more commonly referred to as skin-to-skin contact.
Skin-to-Skin Contact: Starting Basics
What To Wear During Skin-to-Skin
This method of holding your baby involves cradling your baby to your chest. The parent is bare-chested, and your baby will be naked except for a diaper.
That’s also where Tabeeze comes in. With the unique design of our Bottom-Up Bodysuit, you can simply undo the shoulder buttons of the onesie and pull it down. Now, you can do skin-to-skin contact without having to completely undress your baby.
Lay your baby on your chest and turn your baby’s head to the side. The amount of time you set aside depends on your family’s schedule. Studies suggest that even 15 minutes a day of skin-to-skin can have a major impact.
Rest like this with a warm blanket draped over top of you both. Even though this practice was developed for the sake of premature babies, parents and full-term babies can also receive multiple benefits from skin-to-skin contact at the hospital and for the weeks following.
What Are the Benefits of Babies Sleeping on Your Chest?
Here are a few of the best reasons for new parents to cuddle their little one to their chest:
1. It’s stabilizing: skin-to-skin contact is stabilizing for your baby. It stabilizes heart rate, breathing, and newborn body temperature.
2. It helps babies grow: Kangaroo care is reported to improve infant oxygen saturation levels. Infants who sleep on their parents’ chests cry less, sleep more, and gain more weight.
There seems to be a connection between chest-to-chest sleeping and successful feeding episodes. Infants also learn their mother’s scent as they sleep on their chests, and immediate skin-to-skin can aid in successful latching.
3. It’s bonding: this sleeping position forms bonds between babies and caregivers. Experiencing full body contact and hearing the sound of your heartbeat simulate the baby’s experience in the womb and can reduce stress post-birth.
This sleeping position releases oxytocin, the hormone associated with stress reduction, a feeling of calm and peace, and bonding.
Those are just a few of the benefits of skin-to-skin contact that explain why babies like to sleep on their parents’ chests. Their physiological needs are being met on a fundamental level — and that’s why they can snuggle at your chest for hours!
Benefits of Skin-to-Skin Contact for Parents
So, sleeping on your chest is good for your newborn baby. But are there benefits for you too?
Absolutely. Parents benefit from this sleeping position for several reasons:
1. Reduced maternal and paternal stress: As mentioned above, having your newborn sleep on your chest releases oxytocin. This reduces parents' stress post-birth and increases maternal and paternal engagement.
2. Reduced maternal depression: It is common for new parents to report depressive symptoms in the early weeks after birth. However, caregivers who regularly practiced skin-to-skin contact experienced reduced depression.
3. Increased maternal and paternal engagement and satisfaction: Parents who snuggle and hold their child in the chest-to-chest sleep position experience more engagement and parental satisfaction. They are more attuned to their baby’s needs, and their baby’s responsiveness improves their mood. This adds to the joy of being new parents!
Safe Sleeping Guidelines
What are the dangers of holding your sleeping baby on your chest?
Parents are often warned about the dangers of co-sleeping. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) lays out guidelines for safe sleeping.
In order to keep your baby safe, the AAP offers several guidelines for your child’s sleep:
1. Infants should sleep on their backs on an empty blanket or mattress.
2. Bassinets and cribs should have firm mattresses with tight-fitting sheets.
3. Avoid letting your baby sleep in other places, such as a couch or car seat, except when driving.
4. Keep other items, such as blankets, bumpers, stuffed animals, etc., out of the sleep space.
Bed-sharing and co-sleeping are not considered safe sleeping practices.
My Baby Cries When Put Down
If your baby is having trouble sleeping and gets fussy when you put them down, swaddling is a common practice — until your baby starts to roll over.
Make sure your baby sleeps on their back when swaddled and as they show signs of trying to roll over, stop swaddling them. Keep following AAP guidelines for safe sleep spaces, and starting sleep training can help your baby sleep.
Even though there are things to keep in mind for safety as your baby grows and you put them to sleep on their own, it is good that your baby wants to sleep on your chest! Snuggling and cuddling your baby to your chest as they sleep can be practiced safely and ultimately benefit parents and children.
How To Practice Skin-to-Skin Contact
There are a few things to keep in mind when you are holding your sleeping baby on your chest.
Safe Positioning for the Baby
It is very safe and natural to hold your baby on your chest while they sleep. But if you’re concerned about doing so safely and correctly, here are a few things to review:
1. Make sure you can see your baby’s face. Their mouth and nose should be completely exposed and open in order to keep breathing passages safe and clear.
2. Your baby’s head should be turned to one side, but their neck should also be straight.
3. Your infant’s legs are flexed, and their back is covered with a blanket to keep them warm. (Although studies also show that a mother’s chest will adjust in temperature to keep the baby not too warm or too cold!)
Parents: Guidance, Encouragement, and Easy Tips for Skin-to-Skin
If parents want both their child and themselves to receive the benefits of skin-to-skin contact, they should make time for this in the first year at least four times a week.
But there are a few more actions to receive the full benefits:
1. Relax and stay present: this is a time of rest for you and your child. Focus on your baby, on resting, and on breathing slowly. Put away distractions like your phone if possible.
2. Give yourself enough time: moms and dads should make sure they have at least one hour to give enough time for full rest and for their infant to go through a sleep cycle.
3. Dress for success: At Tabeeze, we designed the Bottom-Up Baby Suit with skin-to-skin contact in mind. All you have to do is unsnap the shoulder flaps to maximize bonding time with your little one.
Parenting isn’t always a snap, but with Tabeeze, we can help make dressing (and undressing) your baby as easy as counting to three.