Originally published on Aug. 19, 2018.

In previous posts, we've been talking about understanding when premature babies are ready to start oral feeding. When they're not ready yet, there are still things you can do to support their feeding development. Many of these interventions are designed to promote your baby's ability to regulate their bodies, as this is a pre-requisite for oral feeding.

Skin-to-skin contact is also known as kangaroo care. It involves Mums or Dads holding the baby directly on their bodies as much as possible. Kangaroo care was initially developed in poorer areas of the world without access to incubators. However, as medicine has come to realise the critical impact of early touch experiences on a growing baby, and the importance of protecting the parental bond, it is now fairly common in many units.

Babies will need to be medically stable in order to have skin-to-skin. Your unit staff should help you to get you and your baby ready.

Skin-to-skin has been found to have the following benefits:

  • Increasing oxytocin (the 'cuddle hormone'), which helps with promoting breastmilk 'let down'
  • Promoting bonding between you and your baby
  • Decreased pain responses when having procedures done
  • Promotes physiological stability (for example temperature regulation)

It also puts your baby in the right place for you to respond to any early feeding cues by helping them to the breast, if you are intending to try breastfeeding. All these outcomes are ultimately positive for your baby's feeding development.

Every interaction you have with your baby on the unit counts. It can be easy to assume that it is the medical staff doing all the 'work', but the unique bond between you and your baby is preparing them for all their future feeding experiences. If you haven't tried skin-to-skin yet, ask your medical staff!

Posts from Find the Key Speech Therapy are intended for information. They are not intended to, and cannot, take the place of advice from an appropriately qualified Speech and Language Therapist who knows your child. Find the Key Speech Therapy does not take responsibility for the use of any advice without appropriate professional guidance.