The influence of mother - infant skin-to-skin contact on bonding and touch

Karen Louise Potgieter, Fasloen Adams



Early skin-to-skin contact is a biological need of new born infants. Preliminary research informs us that this contact directly and indirectly influences the mother-infant relationship. This relationship in turn forms the basis of the infant’s social-emotional development. This study investigated South African mother-infant dyads with varying exposure to early skin-to-skin contact and the influence on bonding and touch within the mother-infant relationship.


Contact over the first 24 hours and bonding were measured within one week postpartum. At six to eight weeks postpartum, the bonding assessment was repeated together with objective analysis of mother-infant touch during face-to-face interaction and mothers’ self-reported use of affectionate touch in daily routine.


No correlation was found between a longer duration of skin-to-skin contact and bonding within one week postpartum. A positive correlation was identified between two hours or more of skin-to-skin contact and bonding as well as a higher rating of affectionate touch during feeding at six to eight weeks postpartum. This was substantiated by an increase in touch during face-to-face interaction.


Early skin-to-skin contact positively influences mother-infant bonding and touch at six to eight weeks postpartum. Further more stringent research is however required to confirm these findings.

Keywords: Skin-to-skin contact, mother-infant relationship, bonding, maternal-infant touch, breastfeeding, affectionate touch, social-emotional development.


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ISSN 0038-2337 (print), ISSN 2310-3833 (online)

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