Benefits of Skin-to-Skin Contact with your Baby

AndieM.Ed., RD, LDN, CLC, RYT-200

Read time: 4 minutes

What to know about holding your baby skin-to-skin

  • What is skin-to-skin contact?

  • What are the benefits of skin to skin for mom and baby?

  • How to do skin to skin contact with your little one

Moments after birth your new babe is put into your arms. This time together, snuggling skin to skin in the moments after delivery, can have significant health benefits to both you and your little one.

Skin to skin contact is when your baby, having on only a diaper and perhaps a head cap, is placed directly on your bare chest. A blanket or towel then covers you both for warmth. When medically possible, this important first connection not only promotes bonding, but also milk supply, relaxation, and even helps regulate baby’s body temperature and heart rate.1

Read on to learn the benefits of skin to skin and how to make it work for you and your little one.

Benefits of skin-to-skin contact

Skin to skin and breastfeeding

Evidence shows that early skin to skin contact, both directly after birth as well as ongoing through the newborn phase, promotes greater breastfeeding outcomes.2

Right after delivery, placing babies skin to skin with their mother or caregiver during what is called the “golden hour” or “sacred hour” helps awaken their breastfeeding instincts.5 This process takes about an hour: First baby will rest while skin to skin, then they will begin to slowly wake up, and eventually your little one will start to perform the “breast crawl.”5 This is when babies naturally inch and push toward the breast. Once there, they familiarize themselves with the breast by licking and touching for about 15 minutes, before latching on and suckling for the first time.3,4

All routine procedures, including the APGAR test, can be performed on your little one while they are skin to skin.8

Read more: Top Breastfeeding Latching Tips

Skin to skin and premature or cesarean section babies

Research indicates that babies who are born prematurely may be more metabolically stable and breathe better if they are placed skin to skin immediately after birth, as long as the baby is medically able.1 The same is true for after cesarean births.2

In fact, skin to skin contact can begin in the operating room when mom is alert and responsive.6 Baby can be placed across mom’s chest, rather than belly to belly, to avoid the incision and surgery that may be on-going after delivery. It is important that mom be alert and have someone else in the room who can help support baby when and if necessary.7

When medically possible, skin to skin after a cesarean section can help not only initiate breastfeeding, encourage bonding, and provide benefits to baby, but can also help alleviate feelings of pain and anxiety for mom.6,7

Skin to skin throughout the newborn stage

Skin to skin contact can be done for as long as mom and baby are comfortable, and usually continues to bring benefits even through the first weeks and months postpartum. It can help stimulate the letdown process in breastfeeding (the release of breastmilk at the start of breastfeeding) and continues the bonding process.9

Skin to skin contact has benefits beyond breastfeeding. Moms who are not breastfeeding as well as partners can also participate in the skin-to-skin process to promote bonding and the feeling of comfort and safety between them and baby.10

Have questions about skin-to-skin or latching your baby? Reach out to our team of registered dietitians and lactation consultants for free! They’re here to help on our free to live chat from Monday – Friday 8am-6pm (ET), and Saturday – Sunday 8am-2pm (ET). Chat Now!

Tips on safely practicing skin-to-skin with your baby

Place baby skin to skin immediately after birth

In most birth circumstances, even c-sections, babies can be put skin to skin directly after birth. Chat with your health care provider about whether your wish to do skin to skin right after baby’s delivery is possible.

If mom is under heavy anesthesia or sedation, waiting until she is alert is important before practicing skin to skin. Having someone available to supervise and help when needed is also important in this situation. Dad, partner, or birthing coach can do skin to skin with baby while mom is recovering.

Learn about: Preparing to Breastfeed

Practice proper technique

Make sure mom and baby are truly chest to chest, with no clothing or blanket between skin.  A diaper and head cap are fine for baby. Both mom (or partner/caregiver) and baby can be covered with a blanket to help maintain adequate body temperature. Keep the blanket no higher than baby’s back, avoiding it getting too close to baby’s mouth or nose.11

Skin to skin safety tips:

  • If baby is not attempting to breastfeed, make sure their head is turned to the side and their nose is visible to help them breathe easy

  • Make sure you are not so sleepy that you’ll fall asleep, which may increase the risk of baby’s airway being blocked

  • Position baby so their head is higher than their feet

  • If baby is on mom and not currently breastfeeding, make sure baby is between, not on, mom’s breasts11,12

Let's Chat!

We know parenting often means sleepless nights, stressful days, and countless questions and confusion, and we want to support you in your feeding journey and beyond.

Our Happy Baby Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitians certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too, which means they’ve been there and seen that. They’re here to help on our free, live chat platform Monday - Friday 8am - 6pm (ET), and Saturday - Sunday 8am - 2pm (ET). Chat Now!

Read more about the experts that help write our content!

For more on this topic, check out the following articles:

Breastfeeding: How to Support a Good Milk Supply

How and When to Hand Express