Skin-to-skin contact after birth: Developing a research and practice guideline

Acta Paediatr. 2023 Aug;112(8):1633-1643. doi: 10.1111/apa.16842. Epub 2023 May 24.


Aim: Skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth is recognised as an evidence-based best practice and an acknowledged contributor to improved short- and long-term health outcomes including decreased infant mortality. However, the implementation and definition of skin-to-skin contact is inconsistent in both practice and research studies. This project utilised the World Health Organization guideline process to clarify best practice and improve the consistency of application.

Methods: The rigorous guideline development process combines a systematic review with acumen and judgement of experts with a wide range of credentials and experience.

Results: The developed guideline received a strong recommendation from the Expert Panel. The result concluded that there was a high level of confidence in the evidence and that the practice is not resource intensive. Research gaps were identified and areas for continued work were delineated.

Conclusion: The World Health Organization guideline development process reached the conclusion immediate, continuous, uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact should be the standard of care for all mothers and all babies (from 1000 g with experienced staff if assistance is needed), after all modes of birth. Delaying non-essential routine care in favour of uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact after birth has been shown to be safe and allows for the progression of newborns through their instinctive behaviours.

Keywords: best practice; breastfeeding; guideline development; implementation; skin-to-skin.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Mortality
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Mothers
  • Parturition*
  • Pregnancy
  • Skin

Grants and funding