Skin to Skin Contact After Birth

There have been multiple studies in recent years highlighting the importance of immediate and continued skin-to-skin contact in newborns. Skin-to-Skin contact is your first opportunity to embrace your new child, and doctors say these first cuddles are as enjoyable as they are beneficial. Doctors note both physical and emotional benefits from the contact.

Skin to skin contact is defined as placing a naked baby, not one wrapped in a blanket, to your bared chest. Most researchers recommend that this be done as soon as possibly following delivery. Many hospitals will now even clean the newborn and cut the cord while skin-to-skin contact is happening.

Physically, the contact often allows the newborn to transition from fetal phase to newborn with less observed stress. The contact can equalize their temperature more quickly and with less effort as well as help the newborn manage respiratory transitions and glucose stability. Also, if you and your surrogte comfortable allowing her some skin-to-skin time, research shows that the newborn will be able to colonize the same bacteria as the surrogate. If a newborn is placed into an incubator, colonization will still occur, but it will differ from the bacteria present in the surrogate. Bacteria colonization is one of the key elements shown to reduce instances of allergic diseases forming.

There are noted emotional benefits to skin-to-skin interaction as well. Often these newborns display less violent crying, suggesting that they are under less stress and anxiety during their first moments of life. As the days and weeks move forward, your newborn will learn to mirror your steady breathing during skin-to-skin contact, promoting calm and content behavior. Additionally, prolonged skin-to-skin interaction has been shown to lead to babies and toddlers with less separation anxiety and better self-regulation over time.

Having a surrogate birth does not need to complicate your desires to engage in immediate and prolonged skin-to-skin contact following birth. However, it does mean you need to be more deliberate with your planning. If you plan to do skin to skin, make sure you wear clothing that enables ease of contact. Plan to wear (or pack) button up shirts, and intended mothers can also bring additional blankets or sweaters to provide any desired modesty.

It is a good idea to share your plan with your nurse well in advance of the birth so that they can make plans and arrangements to encourage skin-to-skin interaction during the first moments of life. Things like not automatically swaddling the newborn after initial weighing & measuring and doing initial cleaning and cord cutting on the surrogate’s chest may be contrary to the hospital’s typical routine, but should not be considered impossible.

Research notes the most benefits come from as much skin to skin contact as possible for the first hour, and then eventually the first 24 hours, as possible. Unless medical restrictions cause you to need to be separated, this is a great time to begin bonding with and cuddling your newborn.

Dr. Kim Bergman

Kim Bergman, PhD, a licensed psychologist of 22 years, has specialized in the area of gay and lesbian parenting, parenting by choice and third party assisted reproduction for the last two decades. Dr. Bergman has created a comprehensive psychological screening, support and monitoring process for Intended Parents, Surrogates and Donors. She is the co-owner of Fertility Counseling Services and Growing Generations and is a member of the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, the American Fertility Association, the American Psychological Association, the Los Angeles County Psychological Association, the Lesbian and Gay Psychotherapy Association, and the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association. She is on the national board of the Family Equality Council. Dr. Bergman writes, teaches and speaks extensively on parenting by choice. Along with co-authors, she published “Gay Men Who Become Fathers via Surrogacy: The Transition to Parenthood” (Journal of GLBT Family Studies, April 2010). Dr. Bergman created her own family using third party assisted reproduction and she lives with her wife of 28 years and their two teenage daughters.