Many parents hear of skin-to-skin (also known as Kangaroo Care) as part of their breastfeeding plan, but there are other benefits with huge importance that aren’t quite as widely publicized. In addition to vaginal birth, if that is your baby’s path into this world, the first inoculation of probiotics (also known as microflora) comes from skin-to-skin time.
Skin-to-skin is literally just time spent touching. Most specifically, it is time spent with baby cuddled against your chest: bare-naked to bare-naked. This may happen while feeding, sleeping or even during massage. Time spent lolling with your naked baby cuddled up against your body is an incredibly valuable opportunity to support his immune system.
Continuing to Give Your Child the Gift of Immunity
You won’t necessarily know it, because you can’t see it, but the microfloara populating your body will migrate onto his body – supporting the first line of defense against the most basic of dangers like colds and flu. Time spent touching will have other physiological benefits too – from raising the oxygen level in baby’s blood to making it easier for her to go to sleep.
The reason planning for skin-to-skin time is important is because the amount of time you have to cuddle with your baby will start being influenced before baby is even born. The gear you buy and the parenting style you choose will, often subconsciously, be a part of what determines how close you are with your baby. While some of this gear is paramount to safety, like carseats, other gear will simply make it convenient for you to spend less time touching your baby.
You could, if not consciously considering the concept, spend your days and nights shuffling your baby from carseat to stroller to high chair to bouncer to crib. All the seemingly infinite amounts of gear you could buy could subvert good intentions and create unhealthy and unnecessary space.
Skin-to-skin Benefits Don’t Stop with Better Immune Systems
Babies that are held and touched often, especially with skin-to-skin time, are happier babies. They cry less, get sick less often, sleep better, bond more closely, communicate better, feel more secure, and have better outcomes than babies who are less frequently held and touched.
As you plan your gear, make your purchases, and design your birth and baby care plan, embrace touch. Think about skin-to-skin. When possible, walk with your baby instead of stroll. Wear your baby. Co-sleep. Recognize how many hours are involved in breastfeeding and set aside the time, knowing that this is time spent supporting your baby’s health and ability to thrive, not just providing bottom-line nourishment for existence. Think of bath time as a slow and loving opportunity to scrub your baby’s hair and tickle her toes. See the wonder of water and bubbles through her eyes. Go slow. After she is dry and warm, plan on another 20 minutes to just holder her, skin-to-skin.
What Matters to Your Baby?
When time comes to eat, keep him in your lap and feed him from your plate. Babies want what you model, what you do and what you are… not what you see in catalogues. You are enough. Your touch, your milk and the gift of your time yield the most measurable health benefits. When study comes to study and double blind trial comes to double blind trial, it is your attention and touch, not your stuff, that matters most.
Plan for skin-to-skin time. Plan to cuddle. Plan to minimize your dependence on gear.
Photo credit: Brandi