• Jess Hippey

Skin to Skin Care at the Neonatal Unit

Updated: Jun 12, 2019

One of my favourite times in the week is when I get to visit the Neonatal Unit. It's such a privilege to help those for whom carrying and skin to skin really do make the world of difference.

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Benefits of Skin to Skin

The Benefits of Skin to Skin, or Kangaroo Care as it's often known, are enormous and as well as increasing the bond between parent and child, the benefits also include these incredible things:

Temperature Regulation

Heart Rate Regulation

Breathing Rate Regulation

Oxytocin Production

Less Crying

Post Natal Depression Benefits

Reflux Improvement

Colic Improvement

Increased Breastfeeding Rates

Less Pain Activity

Accelerated Brain Growth

Improved Digestion

Improved Oxygen Saturation Levels

Carrying your baby close whether just holding them skin to skin, or by using a carrier / carrying aid has so many benefits: Human contact with other humans is vital to emotional and physical health and is a normal and essential part of development[1]. Skin to skin contact helps babies to regulate their temperature, heart rate and breathing rates[2]. It produces oxytocin in both the caregiver and the baby, calming the baby and can even reduce the effects and incidence of Post Natal Depression[3]. Studies have shown that carried babies cry less[4] and that carrying significantly helps with both reflux[5] and colic. Babies who are carried for just one hour each day breastfeed for longer and also breastfeed more frequently[6], and a recent study even showed a 40% reduction in pain activity from physical touch [7]. These are incredible benefits for all babies, and for babies in the Neonatal Unit, they are especially helpful and may even assist with growth and reduce the hospital stay [8]

How a Carrying Aid Can Help

All of the above are benefits of Skin to Skin Care, and while a carrier or carrying aid in itself does not add any extra benefits, what it does do is that it enables the caregiver to offer Skin to Skin for longer periods of time, in a more comfortable, well supported way and can also offer an additional level of privacy.

What Our Support Looks Like

We are delighted to work in the Aberdeen Unit, where we visit every week. The Unit itself owns a supply of Vija-Design Tops that were donated by the local NCT Branch, and lots Kangaroo Zak Tops. Aberdeen really is a wonderful example of where all staff encourage Skin to Skin and Kangaroo Care, and we are so proud of the unit for recently achieving the UNICEF Baby Friendly Level 3 Award.

Our role as a trained Baby Carrying Educator is to speak to the families, talk about the benefits and enable the Skin to Skin care to occur in the most comfortable way possible for the caregivers, to answer any questions or concerns they may have, and to provide them with carrying aids to support their time together as a family.

Practically, it looks like this - We speak to the ward staff first, and ensure that your baby is able to have Skin to Skin contact at that moment, and then speak to the parents about the benefits of Skin to Skin, and help facilitate that, offering you a carrying aid T Shirt if it would help. We are also able to demonstrate the Scottish Baby Box Wrap, and can help you to feel confident with it before you're discharged.

The Friends of the Neonatal Unit.

The Friends of the Neonatal Unit are an incredible charity that work tirelessly to support the Unit, Babies and Families. They not only help to fund our visits, but so many other incredible things. You can see the work they do and donate to them here: https://archie.org/friends-of-the-neonatal-unit/donate/

[1] Dr Rosie Knowles, Why Babywearing Matters. Pinter and Martin, 2016. Pg.7.

[2] Heart Rate Variability Responses of a Preterm Infant to Kangaroo Care Gail C. McCain, PhD, RN, FAAN. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2133345/

[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22537390

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3517799

[5] http://www.closeandcalm.co.uk/single-post/2016/08/31/Reflux-and-Baby-Carrying

[6] Pisacane, Alfredo / Contanisio, Paola / Filosa, Cristina / Tagliamonte, Valeria / Continisio, Grazie I.: “Use of baby carriers to increase breastfeeding duration among term infants: the effects of an educational intervention in Italy”. In: Acta Paediatricia, 101, 2012, S.434-438

[7] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-46591640

[8] https://www.unicef.org.uk/babyfriendly/baby-friendly-resources/implementing-standards-resources/skin-to-skin-contact/

Written by Jess Hippey

Jess is a mum to two boys and a Baby Carrying Consultant based in Aberdeen, Scotland. 

For more info about the work that she does see: www.closeandcalm.co.uk

Jess Hippey
Jess Hippey

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