Premature Babies: The importance of skin-to-skin with baby and mother after delivery
Premature birth is a common occurrence, affecting millions of families worldwide. The premature infant faces numerous health challenges, including inadequate weight gain, respiratory problems, and developmental delays. In the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), premature babies are usually placed in an incubator to maintain their body temperature and receive medical support. However, there is growing evidence that skin-to-skin contact between mothers and premature newborns is crucial for their development and health.
What is Skin-to-Skin Contact?
Skin-to-skin contact, also known as Kangaroo care, is a technique where the mother holds her newborn in close contact with her bare chest. The baby is placed directly on the mother's skin, covered only by a diaper and a blanket, with the mother's shirt or blouse lifted up. This type of contact provides a warm, nurturing, and comforting environment for the baby, and has been shown to have numerous benefits for both mother and baby.
Benefits for the Baby
- Regulates Body Temperature: Skin-to-skin contact helps regulate the baby's body temperature, which is especially important for premature infants who have difficulty maintaining a stable temperature on their own. This contact can help to prevent hypothermia, a condition where the body loses heat, and increase the baby's overall stability and comfort.
- Promotes Weight Gain: Studies have shown that premature babies who receive skin-to-skin contact with their mothers have better weight gain and growth compared to those who do not receive this type of contact. This is likely due to the increased maternal hormones, such as oxytocin, that are released during skin-to-skin contact.
- Improves Respiratory Function: Premature babies often have respiratory problems, including apnea, bradycardia, and decreased oxygen saturation. Skin-to-skin contact has been shown to improve respiratory function and decrease the incidence of apnea in premature infants.
- Boosts Immune System: Skin-to-skin contact with the mother helps to transfer beneficial bacteria from the mother's skin to the baby's skin, which can help to establish a healthy gut microbiome and boost the baby's immune system.
- Decreases Stress and Promotes Bonding: Skin-to-skin contact can help to reduce stress and promote bonding between the mother and baby. This contact can also help to reduce anxiety and depression in mothers of premature infants.
Benefits for the Mother
- Increases Milk Production: Skin-to-skin contact can help to stimulate milk production in mothers of premature infants. This is particularly important for premature infants who require additional nutrition for their growth and development.
- Promotes Bonding: Skin-to-skin contact can help to establish a strong emotional bond between the mother and baby. This bond can have a positive impact on the mother's mental and emotional well-being, which can be especially beneficial for mothers of premature infants who may experience stress and anxiety related to their baby's health.
- Helps with the Healing Process: Skin-to-skin contact can help to promote the healing process for mothers who have experienced a difficult delivery or other medical complications. This contact can help to reduce pain and promote physical and emotional recovery.
In conclusion, skin-to-skin contact between mothers and premature newborns is a simple, yet powerful tool that can have a significant impact on the health and development of the baby. This contact can help to regulate the baby's temperature, promote weight gain, improve respiratory function, boost the immune system, and reduce stress.