Skin-to-skin contact (SSC) or Kangaroo Care is where a birth mother has direct skin contact with the child on her chest or belly, much like kangaroos do with their young. Skin-to-skin isn’t just for adoptive mommas, but for adoptive papas too!
Skin-to-skin contact has several bonding and health benefits. This type of care started in 1979 in Bogotá, Colombia when physician researchers Edgar Rey Sanabria and Héctor Martínez-Gómez discovered its use as an alternative to conventional incubator treatment for premature babies. They named the technique Kangaroo Mother Method, which was later coined as Kangaroo Care or Skin-to-Skin. A 2001 study discusses how skin-to-skin contact actually saved the life of a critically ill and premature child. The body of work also discusses the process of the skin-to-skin contact the adoptive parents did while the child was in the NICU and the child’s progression. Also, it articulates the importance of practicing skin-to-skin and advocates for the practice itself.
Skin-to-skin contact aids in the initial connection a mother has with her child. Kangaroo type care at home can look like a range of different things intermixed with other forms of bonding with the child, including, but not limited to: verbal and physical affection, attending to childrens’ needs, and making breastfeeding a bonding experience.
Skin-to-skin contact can look a number of different ways. All achieve the same common goal, which is to bond a child with his or her parent by way of ‘attachment parenting’. This can occur when a mother places her child against her skin as they nap, after she bathes or feeds them, or straps them to her body in a specially designed skin-to-skin carrier. Adoptive dads can create that father-child bond through skin-to-skin contact as well – especially when mom needs a break.
Innate Behavioral Process
When the natural bonding cycle is interrupted, the child can experience issues feeding — especially when planning to breastfeed as an adoptive parent. The process starts with the child’s initial cry, entering a stage of relaxation, following brief movements toward the breast. The child familiarizes themselves with the breast by nuzzling, smelling and licking the area. Finally, the child self-attaches and begins to feed, allowing a synchronous reciprocal interaction pattern between mother and baby.
8 Benefits a Child Receives from Skin-to-Skin
Skin-to-skin is the closest thing the child has after labor to feel safe and secure as he or she did in the womb. Outside of bonding with the child emotionally and physically, there are quite a few health benefits that come with practicing skin-to-skin contact. Here is a list of several health benefits:
- Kangaroo Care allows for temperature regulation, which is achieved through sensory stimuli such as touch, warmth, and odor. Odor is a powerful vagal stimulant, which, among other effects, releases maternal oxytocin. Oxytocin causes the skin temperature of the mother’s breast to rise, providing warmth to the infant. The child goes through the process of thermoregulation – a process that allows a birth mother’s body to maintain its core internal temperature.
- Skin-to-skin and breastfeeding enables colonization of the baby’s skin with the mother’s friendly bacteria.
- SSC stimulates the release of Oxytocin to support breastfeeding and mothering – boosting the mother-child bond.
- SSC and the stimulation and release of the hormone Oxytocin reduce cortisol (stress) levels and pain when going through Allostasis, the process by which the body responds to stressors in order to regain homeostasis.
- Breast milk production and infant weight gain is increased due to effective breastfeeding via skin-to-skin, which allows children to go through the process of self-attachment.
- Skin-to-skin or Kangaroo Care supports positive sensory stimulation.
- Skin-to-skin has proven that children cry less and achieve quiet sleep.
By way of skin-to-skin stimuli, regulation of the autonomic nervous system – a system that controls involuntary bodily functions – is achieved improving brain development or homeorhesis. The autonomic nervous system controls things like breathing, oxygen saturation, heartbeat and digestive processes.
Resources for Skin-to-Skin
- Mamahood: This is a local Denver support group for pre and post-natal, breastfeeding, parenting, etc. They also have a local shop where one can buy pre and post-pregnancy clothing, baby items, and take classes/workshops, etc.
- Ora’s Amazing Herbal Newborn Salve: This natural salve soothes and moisturizes a baby’s skin.
- Hands-Free Kangaroo Care Shirt: These tube tops are used for skin-to-skin and breastfeeding.
- Baby Ergo Wrap Carrier: This front body wrap holds and carries babies for skin-to-skin and breastfeeding.
Back to the Basics
The benefits of skin-to-skin contact are, by far, greater than meets the eye. To name a few: being able to bond with the child physically and emotionally, beginning to recognize the child’s needs and building confidence in parenting.
Practicing skin-to-skin doesn’t need to be that perfect afterbirth picture moment. Skin-to-skin is about parents going back to the basics and simply being there to bond with and soothe their children. It brings out a mother and father’s parental instincts. The rest will fall into place.
Adoption Choices of Colorado
For more information on adoption please contact Adoption Choices of Colorado. We can be reached via our website or phone 303-670-4401.
Support Adoption Choices
Adoption Choices, Inc. is partnering with Crowdrise, a fundraising website for nonprofits, to help our adoptive parents and birth parents with much needed financial assistance. We understand that expenses keep clients from fulfilling their dreams. Both with birth parents making a plan for adoption, and with adoptive parents growing their family. It is our mission to provide financial assistance through grants and scholarships, awarded annually in November, in honor of National Adoption Month. Funds assist adoptive parents with matching and placements, adoption finalization and helping birth mothers improve their lives through higher education — and much more.
However, we can’t do it alone. Please read up on our programs and donate money where you are able. Your donation will make a huge impact.
About the Author
Taylor Tsakopulos, the bestselling student. She has interned locally in Denver and internationally in Dublin, Ireland, taken classes/workshops and worked odd jobs and yet always comes back to being a student and the desire to learn or create.
She is a jack of all trades (i.e. a Gemini). She is a Denver-based writer, creator, artist and student. A graduate from Metropolitan State University of Denver (MSU).
When she isn’t creating content she’s off dancing and hiking. Always chasing after new things and experiences. After living and working in Europe she is hungry for more.
10 benefits of skin-to-skin contact. (n.d.). Retrieved January 21, 2020, from https://babygooroo.com/articles/10-benefits-of-skin-to-skin-contact
How to Maximize Skin-to-Skin Time with Baby (Kangaroo Care). (n.d.). Retrieved January 21, 2020, from https://www.mamanatural.com/skin-to-skin/Lissienko, K. (2013, June 6). The importance of skin to skin contact. Retrieved January 21, 2020, from https://www.kidshealth.org.nz/importance-skin-skin-contact
Moore, E. R., Anderson, G. C., Bergman, N., & Dowswell, T. (2012, May 16). Early skin-to-skin contact for mothers and their healthy newborn infants. Retrieved January 23, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3979156
Skin-to-skin contact. (n.d.). Retrieved January 21, 2020, from https://www.unicef.org.uk/babyfriendly/baby-friendly-resources/implementing-standards-resources/skin-to-skin-contact/
The importance of skin-to-skin with baby after delivery. (2018, August 9). Retrieved January 21, 2020, from https://news.sanfordhealth.org/childrens/the-importance-of-skin-to-skin-after-delivery-you-should-know/