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-to-skin contact was important for a baby’s health, and this is what inspired Björn to develop a baby carrier to make it easier for babies to be close to their parents. Now research suggests that skin-to-skin contact may play an even greater role than was previously thought and might even save the lives of hundreds of thousands of premature babies.

Two parents hold and gaze at their baby | BABYBJÖRN
Closeness is incredibly important for a baby’s well-being, development and sense of personal safety.
Photo: Johnér


Researching the effects of closeness

Right now, a research team is investigating whether skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth might save the life of a premature baby. The project is an international collaboration among various hospitals worldwide, including Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet medical university. The WHO and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are running the study in partnership with various sponsors, and BabyBjörn helped 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-to-skin contact

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

Bare-chested dad holds his baby skin-to-skin | BABYBJÖRN
Skin-to-skin contact has been shown to have positive effects on a baby’s heart rate, breathing and oxygen uptake capacity.
Photo: Johnér


More babies survive today

If babies are born prematurely, they are often taken straight from their mother and placed in an incubator. It’s common practice even in countries that lack advanced medical equipment 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 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 project 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, the hope is also 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 revolutionize 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 more effectively than machines.