Can closeness save lives

That closeness is important for a baby’s well-being, development and sense of safety is nothing new. As long ago as the 1960s, they knew that skin contact was important for a baby’s health and this inspired Björn to develop a baby carrier that made it easier for babies to be close to their parents. Now research suggests that skin contact may play a greater role than was previously thought and might even save the lives of hundreds of thousands of premature babies.

Bonding with your newborn - father kissing the child's cheek
Researching the effects of closeness

Right now, a research team is investigating whether skin contact immediately after birth might save the life of a premature baby. The project is an international collaboration between various hospitals worldwide, including Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet medical university. The WHO and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are running the study in partnership with various sponsors, and BabyBjörn helped to fund the start-up phase. In order to obtain a broader perspective, the study is being carried out in low, medium and high-income countries, including Malawi, Tanzania, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, India, Vietnam, Norway and Sweden.

Health-beneficial skin contact

There is strong evidence that skin-to-skin contact is beneficial for a baby’s health. Studies have shown that it has a positive effect on the child’s short-term and long-term health and development, as well as on the well-being of their parents. Some specific examples of positive effects in babies apply to heart rate, breathing and oxygen uptake capacity. But as yet, no studies have been carried out on the possible effects of holding your baby skin-to-skin immediately after birth. 

Can closeness save lives
More babies survive today

If a baby is born prematurely, they are often taken straight from their mother and placed in an incubator. Even in countries that lack advanced medical equipment, it’s common practice to separate mother and baby, and babies born with a very low birth weight run a great risk of dying.

Common practice to separate mother and baby.

Although the mortality rate for children below the age of five has declined globally in recent years, there has been no improvement for the approximately 1.7 million babies who die each year during the three first days of their life. So the aim of the research project is to evaluate the effect of skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth for babies with a very low birth weight. In addition to investigating the immediate effects of the method, the researchers will also be following the child’s long-term health and development, as well as the effects on breastfeeding and bonding.

Can closeness save premature babies?

Previous studies on skin-to-skin contact with newborn babies in Zimbabwe, South Africa and Vietnam raise hopes that the number of premature babies who survive could increase significantly and it might potentially save hundreds of thousands of babies every year. With this new study, they also hope to be able to show how early skin-to-skin contact may give clear health and developmental benefits in high-income countries that routinely care for premature babies in incubators.

Might potentially save hundreds of thousands of babies.

These ideas are groundbreaking and could revolutionise maternity care, especially in low-income countries. Given our long-standing passion for closeness between parents and babies, we’re understandably very excited by the news that sometimes closeness may save lives in a more effective way than machines.