In 2016, Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth published a systematic review looking at if skin-to-skin contact improved breastfeeding rates and helped babies adjust to the outside world. They looked at the results of 46 studies which included almost 4000 mothers and their babies. Overall, their review supports the use of skin-to-skin to encourage breastfeeding. The evidence suggests that early skin-to-skin should be normal practice for healthy newborns including those born by caesarean and babies born early at 35 weeks or more. Even where skin-to-skin is possible only for a short time, it will still encourage successful breastfeeding one to four months post birth. Importantly, the findings of improved breastfeeding rates were found in diverse countries and among women of low and high socio-economic class.
Since publication, this review has informed 20 sets of guidelines around the world, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) referencing the review in their 2017 guidance for promoting and supporting breastfeeding. It has been translated into five languages.
Elizabeth Moore, Associate Professor of Nursing at Vanderbilt University School of Nursing and lead author of the review said:
"I have really been amazed at the impact that this Cochrane Review has had around the world. It started as just a gut feeling I had as a breastfeeding consultant over 20 years ago that placing mothers and babies together skin-to-skin right after birth would help them breastfeed more successfully. Since then, this profound, but simple intervention has spread throughout the world based on the evidence in this review.”
In the UK, NICE has used the evidence in their 2006 guidance, and the latest revision in 2015, with the recommendation that women have skin-to-skin contact with their babies after birth. The Royal College of Nursing, UNICEF and Public Health England have all cited the research to promote skin-to-skin contact after birth. As a result, a 2019 survey by the Care Quality Commission reported that 93% of women in England had skin-skin contact after birth.
In June 2020, the WHO stated that skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding should still be encouraged for new mothers and their babies in cases of suspected or confirmed COVID-19. Early evidence suggests that the benefits of skin-to-skin and breastfeeding far outweigh any risks.
- Read the full Cochrane Review: Early skin‐to‐skin contact for mothers and their healthy newborn infants
- Read the Plain Language summary in English, Deutsch, Español, Français, Hrvatski, 日本語, 한국어, Bahasa Malaysia, Português, Русский, ภาษาไทย, and 繁體中文
- Visit the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Website
- Listen to the lead author explain the results
- Read 'Case study: Skin-to-skin contact to encourage breastfeeding' on NIHR