Anna, tell us about yourself. You started your career as a social worker, what led you to start Bonsie?
Prior to the birth of my first child, Crew, I worked in a variety of settings as a social worker in and around Portland, Maine. It became so aware to me during this time how impactful early childhood trauma was on the remainder of an individual's life from physical health to their ability to manage and maintain relationships, employment and even housing.
I went on to become trained in a model that specialized in helping children and families with early attachment struggles and trauma heal together hopefully mitigating some of the struggles outlined above.
Thankfully, when I became pregnant I knew the circumstances they were being born into would most likely not lead to these extremes, but as a nervous, new mom I wanted to provide them with every possible benefit I could! We learned about skin to skin at the hospital after the birth of my oldest son, Crew. The doctors, nurses and lactation consultants pushed it quite a bit and highly recommended we continue the practice even out of the hospital.
In my attempts to keep up with getting in 60-90 mins of skin to skin time throughout the day I found dressing and undressing him to be a challenge. He would almost always fall asleep and I worried about him being cold if I needed to lay him down to nap (I was terrified of leaving him alone with a blanket). Diaper changes are so frequent during these early months, it felt like too much to also be taking his clothes off for skin to skin too! The idea behind Bonsie was born!
What are the key benefits of skin to skin contact for mothers and their children?
There are so many wonderful things that happen during the magical moments when a newborn baby is placed on the mother’s chest. First, oxytocin is released; this “love hormone” works wonders by warming up mom’s body, regulating baby’s temperature, heart rate and blood pressure and by initiating the instinct to breastfeed. (Early initiation of breastfeeding leads to greater, long-term success in nursing). This powerful connection between a mom and her baby also increases uterine contractions, which slows mom’s bleeding.
Additionally, this time enables colonization of the baby’s skin with the mother’s friendly bacteria, thus providing protection against infection. Skin to skin time has been found to reduce cortisol levels during painful procedures, reducing stress on the infant. For infants born prematurely, skin to skin has been found to increase oxygen levels, assists in growth and reduced hospital stays. Skin-to-skin contact is the optimum bonding experience because it helps to heal mom while her baby adjusts to the new world through this first loving act.
How does skin to skin contact impact a child’s development?
A couple, very interesting, long term studies have recently been published regarding the long term benefits of skin to skin contact on long term child development.
1. One of these studies compared mothers of full term infants who were directed to do 6 hours of skin to skin for the first week of life and then 2 hours for the next month to mothers who were given no direction regarding skin to skin contact. At one month and three month follow ups the skin to skin group had significantly lower rates of maternal depression, higher rates of maternal responsiveness and higher rates of exclusive or partial breastfeeding through 3 months. At a 9 year follow up the skin to skin group dyads (mother and child) were found to have more reciprocal exchanges leading researchers to conclude that early skin to skin contact lead to a deeper more attuned parent/child relationship through early adolescents.
2. Another interesting study looked at preterm infants in Columbia who received skin to skin contact throughout their hospital stay (30-90 days) versus the infants who did not. The study found significant short (1 month)- and mid-term (1 year) benefits of skin to skin on infant survival, neurodevelopment, breastfeeding and the quality of mother–infant bonding. The effects on a child's IQ and parental relationship were still present 20 years later, reflected by reduced school absenteeism and reduced hyperactivity, aggressiveness and antisocial conduct of the young adults.
Linking studies below of reference:
1Mother–Infant Skin-to-Skin Contact: Short‐ and Long-Term Effects for Mothers and Their Children Born Full-Term. Ann E. Bigelow and Michelle Power Department of Psychology, St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, NS, Canada
Link to study: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1sysLTbTEuDz_t-GP_LPv8kbaPioko-_cM61I4g0hlKg/edit
2Charpak, N (2016), Twenty-year Follow-up of Kangaroo Mother Care Versus Traditional Care. Pediatrics 139(1):e20162063
Link to Study: https://publications.aap.org/pediatrics/article-abstract/139/1/e20162063/51918/Twenty-year-Foll ow-up-of-Kangaroo-Mother-Care?redirectedFrom=fulltext
How does skin to skin contact affect breastfeeding?
Skin-to-skin contact helps to increase a mothers milk supply, it stimulates prolactin and oxytocin. Both of these hormones help your body to make and release breastmilk. Baby’s also naturally initiate the “breast crawl” when placed close to the moms breast and will attempt to latch on, the sooner breastfeeding is initiated the sooner mom’s milk supply will be established.
How does skin to skin contact as an infant teach children how to connect with others down the road?
Frequent skin-to-skin contact has long-term, measurable benefits. Close, bodily contact literally rewires the brain to boost empathy and lay a foundation for more positive, long-term relationships.
How has being a female founded brand impacted Bonsie?
The brand was established due to finding a gap in the market after becoming a new mom. Everything we do from hiring to marketing and branding comes from our desire to help new moms and babies thrive!
How is Bonsie celebrating International Women’s Day?
We will be featuring some amazing women in healthcare working to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in maternal health on our blog and will be donating to their cause.
What are you goals for 2022?
To continue to spread the word on the importance of skin to skin contact and attachment in general while creating a happy and healthy home for my family!