Constant skin-to-skin contact with newborn babies eases the mothers’ anxiety level. However, this bonding might be cut short if the infant was born premature or has special needs that require a stay at the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
The research was done at a large NICU, which leads to the findings that even the smallest skin-to-skin contact between the mother and the baby will have a huge impact on reducing the mother’s stress levels.
The study recorded the maternal stress levels before and after the subjects held the babies with skin-to-skin contact, just like how a mother kangaroo carries her young in her pouch, for around an hour.
According to Natalia Isaza, a neonatologist and FAAP of Children’s National Health System in Washington, DC, they found out that the mothers had decreased stress levels after snuggling with their baby. This kind of contact between the mother and child is especially effective in the case of mothers who feel anxious about their infants being separated from them and helpless about their inability to keep their baby from the pain of the medical procedures of being in the NICU, said Isaza.
The infants included in the study are aged 3 to 109 days and weighed between less than a pound to 8 pounds. They were admitted to the NICU for various health problems, with more than half of the subjects needing oxygen support.
It has been established that newborn babies and infants benefit psychologically from skin-to-skin contact, including stable heart rate, blood oxygen levels, and breathing patterns; longer sleep time; better breastfeeding experience; weight gain; reduced crying; and earlier discharge. Now, this study show that the contact also benefits the mothers greatly, in terms of lower parental stress, which leads to improved health and emotional wellness, parent-and-child bonding, and relationship between parents. It even increases breastfeeding success rates.
Even if your baby is in the NICU, always be prepared to sneak in as much snuggle time as is allowed by the doctors.
This study is scheduled for discussion at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference & Exhibition.