Aim: We systematically reviewed the literature to identify the benefits of early skin-to-skin contact (SSC) for all gestational ages.
Methods: The MEDLINE, Embase and CINAHL databases were searched for papers published in English from 1 January 1975 to 31 March 2020. Early SSC was defined as when the infant was placed directly onto the mother’s chest within 180 minutes of birth. Two authors independently searched the databases, appraised study quality and extracted the study design and outcome data. The primary outcomes were the infants’ physiological stability after birth: thermoregulation and stabilisation. The secondary outcomes were exclusive breastfeeding and mother-infant interaction.
Results: We reviewed 30 studies that assessed the benefits of early SSC: 22 comprised term-born healthy infants and eight focused on preterm or ill infants. These included various gestational ages, birth methods and cultural backgrounds. The studies demonstrated that early SSC stabilised neonatal physiological parameters, promoted exclusive breastfeeding and supported bonding. Most of the data were from term and late preterm births.
Conclusion: This systematic review showed that early SSC could be beneficial. Further studies that focus on providing very and extremely preterm infants with SSC, and parental experiences, are needed to enable SSC to be adopted as routine practice.