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When can I start holding my baby skin-to-skin?

Diana K. Blythe, MD
Pediatrics
As long as your baby is healthy, you should be able to hold your baby skin-to-skin within a few minutes after birth. If your baby looks especially strong, you may even be able to have a very brief contact immediately. Now, if you baby is premature or had a hard delivery, this contact may be delayed while care is given. Rest assured that doctors and nurses agree that skin-to-skin contact is good for the baby and will work to make it happen as soon as possible.

In an uncomplicated birth with a healthy mother and infant, skin-to-skin holding may begin immediately after birth.  Skin-to-skin holding is the practice of placing the naked infant prone on the mother’s bare chest/abdominal area and covering both with a warm blanket.  Routine post-birth procedures such as cutting the umbilical cord, drying the infant and assigning the APGAR score can be completed with the infant on the mother’s chest/abdomen.

However, if the infant is born premature or is showing sign of distress at birth, it is essential to stabilize the infant before initiating skin-to-skin holding.  In these infants, skin-to-skin holding may begin as soon as the infant’s condition allows.  In the NICU some “sick” babies and even those on ventilators have benefited from skin to skin contact with a parent.  Skin-to-skin holding is a practice that may be used throughout the first weeks of the infant’s life.

Unless there are complications, your doctor or nurse will give you a chance to hold your newborn skin-to-skin soon after the birth. A warm towel or blanket will be placed on your abdomen first.

Some mothers want their babies placed on their abdomens right away, so that they can help dry the baby while the umbilical cord is being clamped and cut. Other moms will begin skin-to-skin care after their babies have been dried and weighed. You and your medical team can decide together how best to begin skin-to-skin care of your newborn.

Note that preterm babies and babies taken to the NICU (Newborn Intensive Care Unit) can also benefit from skin-to-skin care. Your baby’s medical team can let you know when your baby is stable enough to be held skin-to-skin.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.