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Surprisingly, the best way to keep your newborn cozy isn't to bundle her in clothing or receiving blankets. According to decades of research, practicing "kangaroo care," or skin-to-skin contact between a baby and an adult, is a better way to comfort a newborn and keep her snug. "Our bodies have an amazing ability to raise a newborn's temperature and keep it at the right level," says Gene Cranston Anderson, Ph.D., R.N., professor emeritus of nursing at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, and author of dozens of studies on kangaroo care. Especially helpful in stabilizing premature infants, the close contact also results in less crying, longer and deeper sleep and greater breastfeeding success in full-term newborns. Ready to try it? Here's how:
Plan ahead: Many doctors believe in implementing kangaroo care immediately after birth, but it's smart to discuss your desire ahead of time and include it in your birth plan, says Anderson.
Dress for success: During your hospital stay, wear your gown backward so it opens in the front. Undress your baby down to her diaper and quickly place her on your bare chest, wrapping your gown around both of you to keep her warm.
Minimize interruptions: Limit visitors as much as possible so you—not they—can cuddle your baby.
Give your partner a turn: Babies who were cradled skin-to-skin by their fathers cried less and fell asleep faster than those who were swaddled in cribs, according to a recent study reported in the journal Birth.
Keep it up: Practice kangaroo care as often and for as long as you like, while in the hospital and at home.