How skin-to-skin contact your baby can be the most useful thing for their development
The first years of your baby’s life are the most important as this is when major brain and body development happens. However, this starts even earlier and from the moment it is born, meeting its developmental needs will affect how it develops.
A newborn baby’s first developmental need is to feel safe and secure, reflecting on the conditions of the womb. The simplest way to give your baby the feeling of safety and security is the power of your touch, and your birthing team will immediately encourage you to have skin-to-skin contact with your child. To emphasise how important this contact is, Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU) are introducing baby cuddlers. These are volunteers who come in and spend time holding the babies on the neonatal unit, showing the power of human touch can lead to a speedier recovery.
The simple gesture of touching your baby enables your baby to develop a secure attachment bond. The baby continues to develop this bond as the mother consistently responds to her baby’s needs. A simple warm touch enables you to respond and communicate with your baby from its first moments. A secure attachment bond will maximise his development as the baby feels safe, secure and calm, contributing to the wellbeing of your baby. Cuddling your baby also triggers the brain to produce chemicals and hormones that promote your baby’s emotional and physical growth.
Simple daily rituals can help you boost your baby’s development through touch every day. Spending extra time caressing your baby in the bath, massaging your baby’s legs when changing it’s nappy, or stroking their hair whilst they fall asleep are effortless ways to increase your contact. These small gestures of touch everyday can impact many areas of your baby’s everyday moments.
It improves immunity – Providing skin-to-skin contact can boost your child’s immune system as the baby becomes colonised with the bacteria on your skin. If you are still breastfeeding, your body can adapt to your child’s needs through skin-to-skin contact and you can produce milk that contains all the essential antibodies.
It regulates breathing – your body can change body temperature based on your baby laying on your chest. By regulating your temperature, you are able to warm or cool your baby, reduce stress hormones, regulate blood pressure and aid with respiration.
It supports brain development – a baby’s brain is about 25% of its adult weight and by age three it grows dramatically. Skin-to-skin contact enables hundreds of connections to be formed which are essential for mental and emotional health. Enhanced neurological development is shown in newborns who receive an extra dose of touch.
It soothes the baby – outside the womb can be an interesting and intimidating place which is why one of your baby’s instant needs is to feel safe and secure. When your baby is crying, it can be showing distress to the world around it. Touching your baby can help them to feel safe and calm them down, knowing you are there can soothe them through the day and night.