Skin to skin care has been practised in primitive and high technology cultures for body temperature preservation in neonates. Regional skin temperature and heat flow was measured in moderately hypothermic term neonates to quantitate the heat transfer occurring during one hour of skin to skin care. Nine healthy newborns with a mean rectal temperature of 36.3 degrees C were placed skin to skin on their mothers' chests. The mean (SD) rectal temperature increased by 0.7 (0.4) degrees C to 37.0 degrees C. The heat loss was high (70 Wm-2) from the unprotected skin of the head to the surrounding air. Minute heat losses occurred from covered areas; and heat was initially gained from areas in contact with the mother's skin. The total dry heat loss during skin to skin care corresponded to heat loss during incubator care at 32-32.5 degrees C. The reduced heat loss, and to a minor extent, the initial heat flux from the mothers allowed heat to be conserved, leading to rewarming.