Skin-to-skin contact (SCC) immediately after birth has positive benefits to the overall health and development of a newborn. Kangaroo mother care (KMC) was first established as a method to help newborns and their mothers in underdeveloped countries with overstaffed hospitals and lack of medical equipment reduce initial stress factors through skin-to-skin contact (SSC). The SSC method involves placing the infant in a continuous SSC vertically in between the mother’s breasts, underneath clothes, and exclusive breastfeeding. SSC is noted to improve milk production by the mother and increase the duration of breastfeeding in malnourished children.
While skin-to-skin contact can help mothers and newborns in underdeveloped countries improve initial development, new research suggests that babies who are born premature in resource-rich countries benefit from intermittent SSC as it improves breastfeeding, milk production, parental satisfaction, and bonding.
Skin-to-Skin Contact for Newborns in NICU
Skin-to-Skin Contact in NICU Incubator
A clinical report published by the American Academy of Pediatrics indicates that intermittent SSC can help newborns that are neonatal intensive-care units (NICU) make stronger connections with their mothers and speed up the recovery process. Intermittent SSC involves placing unstable newborns that are in intensive care units against the skin of mother or father for intervals of one hour. Following intermittent SSC, infants and their mothers in NICU exhibited the following benefits:
Milk Production and Consumption
The results of the clinical report indicate that newborns in intensive care that received intermittent skin to skin contact reported having longer periods of breastfeeding exclusively to the mother. Among the other benefits noted from intermittent SCC in an overall increase in milk production from breasts, which is dependent on the connection between the newborn and the mother.
Clinical environments that are sterile such as an NICU can increase the stress levels of the mother through negative sensory stimuli. The findings of the report indicate that SSC can reduce the stress and feelings of helplessness of mother, and strengthens the parental role in the continued care of the fragile premature baby. This method overall improves the parent’s response to the infant’s cues during critical care, improving the outcome of hospital discharge in some.
The NICU can pose various stress factors on a newborn, including painful procedures. SSC provides an alternative for pharmaceutical therapies that reduce pain in newborns. For example, infants provide blood samples through a heel lance procedure that involves extracting blood from the heel of baby’s foot, which can trigger pain receptors. The report indicates that through SSC, procedural pain like a heel lance in newborns is significantly reduced, which also reduces stress for both the infant and mother.
SSC in Clinical Practice
The effectiveness of SCC is dependent on the implementation of the method during critical care. The application of SSC on an infant should be between both parents, following strict medical guideless of the NICU. The recommended guidelines of SCC in infants should involve continuous cardiovascular monitoring, correct head positioning to avoid airway obstruction, and to prevent medical equipment attached to the infant from being compromised during SCC.