Research on skin-to-skin contact
Below is a selection of studies exploring the impact of skin-to-skin contact on infant and maternal health. Find out more about how skin-to-skin works.
An implementation algorithm to improve skin‐to‐skin practice in the first hour after birth
This algorithm seeks to analyse the implementation of skin‐to‐skin care in the first hour after birth in order to explore the successes, barriers, and opportunities for improvement to achieving this standard of care for babies.
An analysis of the effects of intrapartum factors, neonatal characteristics, and skin-to-skin contact on early breastfeeding initiation
This study of 915 mother-newborn dyads found that skin-to-skin contact, mode of birth, labour duration and neonatal unit admission were all significantly associated with likelihood of early breastfeeding initiation. For example, women with immediate skin-to-skin contact were more likely to initiate early breastfeeding across different modes of birth, and in the spontaneous vaginal birth group, women showed a lower likelihood of initiating early breastfeeding when their neonates were admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit and presented an Apgar score of <7 at 1 min. The findings demonstrate the importance of prioritising immediate skin-to-skin contact to support mothers to get breastfeeding off to a good start.
Lau, Y, et al (2017), An analysis of the effects of intrapartum factors, neonatal characteristics, and skin-to-skin contact on early breastfeeding initiation, Maternal & Child Nutrition, DOI: 10.1111/mcn.12492
Early skin-to-skin contact for mothers and their healthy newborn infants
This review of randomized control trials examined the impact of early skin-to-skin contact on breastfeeding and infant physiology. Researchers found that skin-to-skin contact supported both the establishment and maintenance of breastfeeding. There was also some evidence to suggest a positive impact on the stability of the cardio-respiratory system in infants who received skin-to-skin, although larger sample sizes would be needed to support this further.
Kangaroo mother care for preterm infants
A 20 year follow-up study of the impact of kangaroo care (KMC, or skin-to-skin contact) on preterm and low birthweight babies found significant, long-lasting social and behavioural protective effects even 20 years after the intervention. The effects of KMC at one year on IQ and home environment were still present 20 years later in the most fragile individuals, reflected by reduced school absenteeism and reduced hyperactivity, aggressiveness, externalization, and socio-deviant conduct of young adults. Neuroimaging showed larger volume of the left caudate nucleus in the KMC group.
Healthy Birth Practice #6: Keep Mother and Baby Together – It’s Best for Mother, Baby, and Breastfeeding
This review explores the evidence supporting the value of immediate, uninterrupted skin-to-skin care after vaginal birth and during and after cesarean surgery for all stable mothers and babies, regardless of feeding preference. The authors argue that unlimited opportunities for skin-to-skin care and breastfeeding promote optimal maternal and child outcomes.
Effect of kangaroo care on physical growth and breastfeeding
This study of 110 neonates found that the use of kangaroo care improved the infants’ physical growth and increased breastfeeding rates.
Benefits of skin-to-skin to baby and mother
A review of 34 studies found that skin-to-skin contact improved breastfeeding rates, infant cardio-respiratory stability and blood glucose levels.
Anderson GC, Moore E, Hepworth J, Bergman N. Early skin-to-skin contact for mothers and their healthy newborn infants (Cochrane Review). In: The Cochrane Library, Issue 2 2003. Oxford: Update Software.