The Transformative Power of Skin-to-Skin Contact with Your Newborn

Remember the first time you held your newborn? That magical bond wasn’t just emotional—it was physiological, too! This powerful connection is fostered by something as simple yet profound as skin-to-skin contact, where your bare chest meets your baby’s bare skin. But what is skin-to-skin contact, and what are the significant benefits (and any potential disadvantages) for both you and your baby? Let’s explore the science behind skin-to-skin time and how to make it a part of your parenting journey.

What is Skin-to-Skin Contact?

Otherwise called kangaroo care, skin-to-skin contact is more than just a cozy cuddle. When a baby lies on their parent’s chest, the warmth and familiar heartbeat create an environment that promotes neurological development and emotional bonding. The World Health Organization recommends that the baby be placed on the mother’s chest immediately after birth, and should occur for as many hours as possible in the days after birth.

In addition to regulating the baby’s temperature, heart rate, and breathing, this simple act triggers the release of oxytocin, the “love hormone,” that fosters trust and affection, ensuring a smoother transition from the womb to the outside world.

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Benefits of Skin-to-Skin Contact

Both the child and their parents enjoy the benefits of kangaroo care. Here are the many physical and emotional benefits of skin-to-skin contact.

Emotional Connection and Bonding

The close, loving touch releases powerful bonding hormones like oxytocin, which allows your child to feel your warmth, closeness, and affection. This first interaction sets the pace for a strong attachment and trust that will shape your relationship for years to come.

Preventing Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression can affect your emotional well-being by triggering sadness, anxiety, and hopelessness. You might even struggle to care for your newborn and maintain healthy family relationships.

Fortunately, skin-to-skin contact can reactivate pathways to lower the risk of depression and balance maternal hormones. The release of oxytocin during skin-to-skin care can also reduce maternal anxiety and strengthen attachment.

Reduced Stress and Crying 

Your newborn infant communicates their discomfort by crying. When you nestle your baby against your chest, the reassuring warmth, heartbeat, and familiar scent triggers calming hormones. 

According to a 2022 study in Developmental Psychology, at least an hour of skin-to-skin time every day improved sleep and reduced crying among babies.

Improved Cognitive Development

Strong cognitive skills enhance your child’s ability to learn, solve problems, and adapt to new situations. They also contribute to better decision-making, critical thinking, and mental well-being. Kangaroo care is one of the most effective ways to achieve all these.

A Canadian study published in the October 2012 issue of Acta Paediatrica revealed that preterm infants receiving skin-to-skin contact had better brain function at 15 years old than those placed in incubators. This bonding process stabilizes the baby’s heart rate, improves oxygen levels, and enhances sleep, all of which promote brain development.

Increased Milk Supply 

Kangaroo care is also known to promote breastfeeding. The warmth and closeness of skin-to-skin contact can trigger your baby’s rooting reflex, making it easier to latch and breastfeed. Skin-to-skin contact also triggers oxytocin release to promote the milk ejection reflex.

This is in addition to stimulating the production of prolactin, which is responsible for milk synthesis. Furthermore, your young one quickly picks up on hunger cues from your scent and the smell of your breast milk—the more your baby nurses, the more milk your body produces, and the longer the breastfeeding session.

Promotion of Healthy Weight

Skin-to-skin contact helps regulate a baby’s body temperature, heart rate, and breathing. This reduced stress allows the baby to conserve energy that goes towards growth and development, including healthy weight gain. The calm and secure environment created by skin-to-skin contact also improves digestion and absorption of nutrients. That’s not to mention the gentle stimulation that promotes gastrointestinal motility and enhances nutrient uptake.

Improves Heart and Lung Function

The calming effect of skin-to-skin contact can help regulate heart rate and breathing patterns in newborns. This is especially true for preterm babies who may struggle to maintain stable heart and breathing rates on their own. Additionally, kangaroo care regulates the infant’s body temperature, reducing the metabolic demand on their heart and lungs. A stable temperature means the body doesn’t work as hard to keep warm, conserving energy for heart and lung function.

How to Practice Skin-to-Skin Contact

More is better when it comes to skin-to-skin contact. However, the first two hours after the baby’s birth are the most important as they embed familiarity and lifelong connections in the parent’s and child’s minds.  

Continuous skin-to-skin contact is still helpful much later, with experts recommending kangaroo care for at least the first 20 weeks of life. This is particularly true for premature babies with a low birth weight who struggle to regulate their body temperature. 

What you’ll need to practice kangaroo care:

  • A comfortable and quiet space
  • A blanket
  • Loose-fitting clothing that opens at the front (for you)
  • Diaper (and possibly a hat and socks to keep your baby warm)


  1. Get comfortable: Find a relaxing position, like sitting in a chair or lying down. Prop yourself up with pillows if needed.
  2. Undress yourself and your baby: Take off your shirt or bra and loosen any pants or bands. Undress your baby down to their diaper, leaving a hat and socks on if needed to keep them warm.
  3. Position your baby: Place your baby directly on your bare chest, tummy to tummy. Their head should be turned to one side so their breathing isn’t obstructed.
  4. Cover yourselves: Drape a blanket over both you and your baby to maintain warmth.
  5. Relax and bond: Hold your baby close and enjoy the closeness. You can talk softly, sing, or simply cuddle.

Keep doing it as long as both you and your baby enjoy it. When they start squirming and trying to pull themselves off your chest, it might be time for something else.

Addressing Common Concerns


Dads benefit from skin-to-skin time, just like their female partners. For starters, kangaroo care helps dads bond with their babies and feel more confident about their parenting skills. Dads also provide the same benefits as moms, helping the child fall asleep and maintain a steady temperature and heartbeat. And while Dad is spending some special one-on-one time with the baby, Mom can catch a bit of rest.

Right after giving birth, the doctor or midwife will dry the new baby and lay them on the mother’s bare chest. Although the child only wears a diaper and hat, you’ll need a warm blanket to stay cozy. These early moments are crucial for getting to know your infant and build a strong relationship from day one.

While skin-to-skin contact is most beneficial for newborns, it can also help older infants, especially if they are premature or have had a difficult birth.

Yes, skin-to-skin contact can be done after a C-section if both the mother and baby are stable. Hospital staff can assist in positioning the baby on the mother’s chest.

The longer, the better! Aim for at least an uninterrupted hour of skin-to-skin contact after birth. You can continue practicing skin-to-skin contact throughout the day and night for however long it feels comfortable for you and your baby.

Yes, skin-to-skin contact can benefit mothers by reducing postpartum depression and anxiety, enhancing bonding with the baby, and promoting milk production.

Yes, skin-to-skin contact can significantly help with breastfeeding. It encourages the baby’s natural breastfeeding instincts, increases milk production, and helps the baby latch more effectively.

What safety concerns should I be wary of?

There are no known disadvantages of skin-to-skin contact for healthy newborn infants. However, your healthcare provider may delay kangaroo care if:

  • The caregiver has a contagious illness that could affect the newborn skin.
  • The mother is experiencing severe medical complications postpartum, such as excessive bleeding, severe preeclampsia, or is under anesthesia and not fully conscious.
  • Your baby's breathing is troubled.
  • The mother has used substances that could affect her ability to safely handle the baby, including certain medications, alcohol, or drugs.


In addition to promoting bonding, kangaroo care helps regulate the baby's temperature and heart rate while reducing stress and encouraging healthy breastfeeding patterns.

Feel free to contact us with any concerns about skin-to-skin contact and your child's development.

If you've gone through the process, we'd love to hear about your experience in the comments box below. Your insights will go a long way toward encouraging others on their parenting journey.