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Placing a near-naked baby on his mother's bare skin, a technique known as skin-to-skin contact, enhances bonding and may help prevent symptoms of depression after childbirth, Canadian researchers found.
They asked 30 new moms to provide five hours a day of such contact in the infant's first week of life followed by at least two hours of skin-to-skin contact daily for the next three weeks. These mothers had fewer symptoms of stress and depression than those who didn't practice the technique. The contact also helped women who were nursing maintain their decision to breastfeed.
Skin-to-skin contact promotes the mom’s production of oxytocin, a hormone that boosts maternal feelings and a positive mood, according to study author Ann Bigelow, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia. “The close contact also helps a mother recognize and become familiar with her infant’s signals, which leads to more sensitive maternal response,” she says.
The babies given this access to their mother’s skin tended to have more stable temperatures, heart rates and gastrointestinal function, and they slept more, cried less and grew faster, Bigelow adds.
Moms-to-be should remember that going bare can lead to breastfeeding success. Many hospitals realize the importance of this and encourage it; others, not so much. So be sure to tell your labor and delivery nurses that you want to be skin-to-skin with your baby as soon as he’s born. Most will accommodate your request and hold off on weighing, measuring or cleaning until after the baby has had a chance to snuggle and suck.
– Journal of Obstetric, Gynecological & Neonatal Nursing