Skin-to-skin care, also called Kangaroo Care or Kangaroo Mother Care, is holding a baby bare chest to bare chest. It is good for both full term and premature babies. It helps newborns adjust to being outside the womb. It is ideally done immediately after the birth and as much as you can during the first few days or weeks of life. It helps regulate the baby's temperature, breathing, heart rate and sugar levels. It also calms the baby so he doesn't get stressed out or cry a lot. It is easier for many babies to latch on to the breast when held skin to skin. Skin-to-skin care can be done by the mother, father, parent, partner, caregiver or sibling.
Take off your bra and/or shirt or have your hospital gown open in the front. Dress your baby in only a diaper. Place your baby's chest between your breasts, skin to skin against your bare chest. Place a cover over her back. You can also try wearing an oversized shirt and use this to cover her. If your baby starts to bob around and look for your breast, adjust your position as needed to get into a comfortable breastfeeding position. For more information see the LLLC article Positioning and Latching. Babies benefit from skin-to-skin care beyond the first breastfeed, so take every opportunity to hold your baby this way.
Skin-to-skin care will help you learn your baby's cues. It will also increase the level of prolactin you produce. Prolactin is a hormone responsible for helping your body make milk. Many mothers find that latching their babies is easier when they hold their babies skin to skin. It can calm a fussy baby, making the baby interested in feeding. The mother's body is the baby's habitat. During the first few weeks skin-to-skin care can be done often or even continuously. There is no age at which skin-to-skin care is no longer recommended.
If you are unable to breastfeed because your baby is sick or premature, you will have to express your milk. Holding your baby skin to skin helps your body make more milk. Yes. If you are able to hold your baby, you can do skin-to-skin care. Tiny babies on breathing machines, IVs, and heart monitors can often be held skin to skin. In fact, they do better in this position: their heart rate, breathing rate and temperature are more stable. NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) staff using this type of progressive care will be able to help you position your baby safely. Just ask. See Kangaroo Mother Care for more information.
Updated August 2022