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  • Sharon Tenuta

Skin to Skin: the power of touch

Skin to Skin

The Power of Touch

When a baby is born, baby is in a new environment and wanting its mother. Baby feels safe when mother is near, and when baby can smell mother’s pheromones. The joy kicks in the beautiful cycle of oxytocin being sent to baby’s brain where the brain’s messages sent to the body are of safety and comfort. These turn on the hormones that help baby grow neurons towards security and love. Baby’s temperature and heartbeat is adjusted, the blood sugar in moderated and increased appropriately. Mother’s hormones too get boosted in the presence of baby. While baby is skin to skin, mother’s nose smells the pheromones of baby, especially through the top of the head. No hat is necessary for baby. Baby’s temperature and heart get regulated by baby being next to mother’s heart and by mother’s body temperature adjusting to assist baby’s body temperature regulation. Father benefits from the closeness as his fathering hormones are solidified during this first hour as well.

Some hospitals inform mother of the importance of the 1st hour after birth as the Golden Hour for both parents to be with baby. At some hospitals, the mothers or fathers must request to have this special bonding time. The skin to skin also enhances the milk production for mother’s breasts. Sometimes mother’s milk may not be fully in until 4 days. This is ok for baby. Baby’s body is prepared for this. The stomach is the size of an almond and drinking the colostrum is enough for baby’s nourishment. Try to avoid any confusion for baby by giving any bottles or nipples. Trust that baby’s needs are taken care of by nature. Stay skin to skin, either with baby on mother or father. There is less engorgement for mother and less anxiety when mother is skin to skin with baby. Also, it allows the baby to be colonized by the same bacteria as the mother.

The bonds created with the oxytocin cycle of turning on the mothering and fathering hormones during the first hour of life is irreplaceable. Research has shown benefits of less stress for mother and baby, less crying for baby, and infants fall asleep more readily. If mother needs to have a cesarean, the Golden Hour of skin to skin can still be honored as mother is being stitched up. However, if there is a certain trauma that causes separation, some healing of trauma and bonding can be overcome by later bonding. It may take more work though.

Health of a newborn is dependent upon touch. Infants who are touched gently on a regular basis gain weight and grow at better rates than babies who lack this contact.

Kissing is another way to touch. This is beneficial because it activates pre-coded genetic programs and increases Gonadotropin Releasing Hormone which activates the sex hormones and affect sexual development and behavior.


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