In the Scandinavian region of Europe, skin-to-skin contact as an alternative for exclusive incubation is more commonly recommended for premature babies than in any other part of the world.  It is generally believed that human contact helps the delicate children to fare better and recover more quickly than in the complete isolation in a machine.
However, our hearts are still in our hands with this adorable photo of a topless little boy helping his dad give skin-to-skin to his premature twin siblings.  The viral photo was captured in 2016 at the Hvidovre Hospital in Copenhagen, Denmark. It was uploaded to Facebook by the South Africa-based NINO Birth Organization.
It was captioned: “Skin-to-skin contact is not ‘new’, but Sweden certainly leads the way in making this care family-friendly, even for very tiny babies. I love this picture of big brother helping his dad care for the twins!”
Skin-to-skin contact (SSC) is highly encouraged in Sweden where babies who weigh as much as 700 grams can be nursed by their parents. It’s usually performed by the mother, but in cases where she’s unable to cater to the child, other persons, preferably immediate family members, can warm the child. The little boy in the picture lovingly holds his sleeping sibling, helping the baby’s health and forming a bond that would certainly last a lifetime.
SSC offers the children more protection from infections
As explained by the organization in the post, renowned Swedish Professor Uwe Ewald, a strong advocate for skin-to-skin contact, was in the Hvidovre hospital during that time. In Professor Ewald’s revolutionary practice, premature babies are regularly taken out of the incubator to receive skin-to-skin contact, even when they are extremely small.
During SSC, the baby is cleaned, dried, and wrapped in a nappy while the caregiver is topless to allow as much contact as possible. After an hour or so, the child is fed and returned to the incubator. According to Ewald, SSC provides more warmth than an incubator. It also helps to protect the children from serious infections by transmitting protective bacteria into their systems.
“Uwe Ewald points out that the parent’s chest regulates the temperature better than an incubator. Skin to skin contact helps the baby to breathe better,” continues the Facebook post. “The child becomes calmer and gains weight faster. Research shows that parent’s bacterial flora — compared with hospital bacteria — reduces the risk of serious infections in these delicate children.”
On your chest, very close to your heart
Hundreds of people commented positively on NINO’s post, with many recalling the times they gave skin-to-skin to babies in need. Some people had their doubts about the survival of premature children who are occasionally brought out of the incubator, but several others attested to the fact that the children would fare better and grow to be completely healthy.
Shelly F. wrote: This is amazing. My baby was prem and born at 4 pounds 7 ounces and I wasn’t allowed to hold him most of the time, I was only ever offered skin to skin twice and he was in care for 26 days. I wasn’t allowed to stay with him. The most stressful time of my life but baby is ok and healthy. It’s a shame Australia isn’t on board with this…
Malin N. wrote: “15 years ago in Sweden my very sick, tiny, heartsick baby spent most of her time on my husband’s chest. Not sure if she would make it, we treasured every minute she was brought out of the incubator. Today she is a healthy beautiful young lady. ❤️”
Marie F. wrote: “All of my older kids had to take a turn with the new baby inside their t-shirts as he was so fractious (not a babba anymore)… It settled him. The more ‘new’ trends I see emerging make me proud that I have been doing things right for years… Trust your instincts… Lovely pic.
While skin-to-skin is a beautiful and medically approved practice, parents should not insist on it for their premature babies without the consent and approval of a doctor. Some babies may be too fragile to be out of the incubator. Other than that, this is a lovely practice that should be encouraged in more countries around the world.
- “Skin‐to‐skin care in neonatal intensive care units in the Nordic countries: a survey of attitudes and practices.” Wiley Online. Emma Olsson et al. July 31, 2012.
- ” Photo Of Boy Helping Dad Give Skin-To-Skin To Premature Twins Goes Viral.” Scary Mommy. Ashley Austrew. May 19, 2016.