Quora .
This question originally appeared on Quora. Answer by Camila S. Espinoza, midwife, obstetrics, perinatology, and women's health.

This is a wonderful question. A few years ago, skin-to-skin contact (SSC) was completely dismissed. Today, hospitals are becoming more and more respectful of early SSC right after birth.

Adaptation process

Birth is a critical period, so critical in fact that there's nothing quite like it. In the womb, you're cozy, you don't know what cold is, what hunger is. You have to do very little as a fetus because your entire system has been specially adapted to leave all the hard work to someone else. You mostly practice. You do your breathing exercises and you spend 20 hours of your life sleeping and barely moving your legs to get some tone. And then you set birth in motion. And you come out stressed, wet, cold, and hungry. You take your first breath out of pure shock, and suddenly, your entire organism changes.

Blood is pumped to your lungs and you are your own little independent person. The world is too bright and too loud compared to the darkness of the womb, and those soft and muffled sounds that kept you company are suddenly gone. You're also stretched, and you hate it. You grew up in a crowded place, so surrounded that you were basically wrapped 24/7, so space makes you anxious, as well as feeling no contact at all.

Early SSC provides a less traumatic experience. Newborns are terrible at thermoregulating (controlling their own body temperature) and they lose heat very fast. If they lose too much heat, breathing becomes even harder. In their mother's chest, they do not only have a warm chest to help the process, they also have that human contact they are used to feeling, as well as familiar sounds they were used to hearing in the womb (breathing sounds, maternal heartbeat, and voice). They stabilize their heart rates, as well as their metabolic rates. Stress rates are reduced, and the adaptation process becomes easier. Every mammal has a natural habitat. For newborns, that environment is their mother's body.


There's something called "brown fat," and we're filled with it when we're born (hibernating mammals have brown fat too). Brown fat is different from regular fat. It has more capillaries, and higher metabolic rates. Why? Because brown fat is there to be burnt fast in order to produce quick energy and heat. During the first few hours after birth, newborns are on high alert. They burn their reservoirs quickly, and they are on a mission: milk.

They are so prepared and determined to find food, in fact, that if you leave a newborn right there between their mother's legs, they'd be able to crawl through their mother's abdomen using elbows, knees, and feet in order to reach their breasts. Genitals, the middle part of the abdomen (the linea nigra),and areolas get darker during pregnancy. Some theories suggest that the function of this line is to help newborns find their way to breastmilk. The darkening of the areolas and the reflexes of search and suction, when breasts touch the baby's cheek and nipples touch the babies lips, will be enough to help them latch on and drink. Early SSC allows that.

The faster a baby is fed right after birth, the lower the chances are of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar, that can be fatal for everyone, but especially for newborns). Early SSC has been linked to higher rates of exclusive breastfeeding for longer periods of time.

Safe bonding

​​Bonding is basically the connection between a mother and her child. There are different types of bonding, but using only one safe bonding technique is considered ideal. This provides a sense of love, protection, security, and reassurance for the child. They will understand that this connection won't disappear if they dare to explore the world, or interact with other people. They will reach for for their mothers to fulfill basic needs, for affection and natural interactions.

Other types of bonding can be easily distinguished. Some children are anxious. They will scream and cry if you attempt to separate them from their mothers. They will cling to them with desperation, and they will chase them from room to room because they will be incapable of being alone. On the other side, we can find kids that seem oddly independent. They will only go to their mothers when hungry or cold, they will feel overly comfortable alone or with strangers, and they will even show indifference to their primary care givers.

The bond is mostly created by parents, and early SSC increases the release of maternal hormones (Oxytocin) that facilitate the adaptation process during early motherhood and postpartum. Early SSC won't assure safe bonding, but it will create an early connection that's recognized as the first step.

Early SSC shows diverse results, because the benefits can't be pinpointed to only one act. What we do know, is that this simple action sets the pace to others that do show significant results in the long term (like breastfeeding and bonding). The mother and the newborn are so biologically prepared to create this contact, that hormones in the mother will produce superficial vasodilation and increase body temperature, while the child will be born with the ability to distinguish hyper-pigmentation in their mother's body.

Early SSC isn't exactly fundamental. You can grow up to be a perfectly functional adult even if you were deprived of this as a child. But if you are given the possibility, then please, take it.

More from Quora: