Before I became a mother myself, I would see pictures of parents with their new babies — pictures of babies wrapped up and swaddled in their arms, the image of a parent cheesing while looking at the face of their sleeping child, and the photo of a mom or dad with their new baby laying on their chest, with no barrier between the bare skin of the two. This last picture seemed sweet when I saw parents cuddling their child, but I was unaware that the gesture was anything more than a sweet embrace.

After my first daughter was placed in my arms, the nurses encouraged me to lay her on my chest to begin skin-to-skin contact. Never before had I heard this term used or known why it was initiated between parents and their new babies. Our nurses and doctor explained that skin-to-skin contact was one of the best ways my husband and I could nurture our new connection and even offer health benefits to our baby.

Skin-to-skin is encouraged by medical professionals for biological parents, adoptive parents, foster parents, even parents of babies born by surrogates. On social media recently was a picture of Gabrielle Union with husband, Dwayne Wade and their new baby girl born by a surrogate. Union, who was holding her daughter on her chest practicing skin-to-skin care, received criticism from strangers who questioned why she wanted to do skin-to-skin contact with her baby even though she didn’t give birth.

This condemnation toward Union gives us all a good opportunity to be educated on the importance of skin-to-skin contact, not only for a mom who carried her baby for nine months but for adoptive parents or intended parents of a new baby. The benefits the baby receives from skin-to-skin contact are crucial with any parent, biological or intended. A great hope for adoptive parents and their new baby is that the skin-to-skin contact aids in the initial connection with their baby. The benefits of skin-to-skin contact are consistent whether it is done by a biological parent or by an adoptive or intended parent.

Skin-to-skin contact is accomplished by stripping baby down to just a diaper and laying them on your bare chest. Benefits can be seen within minutes of baby’s birth if skin-to-skin is being practiced. A baby can hear, smell, and touch their parent, which begins the connection between baby and parent. When baby feels connected, their temperature can better regulate, breathing will soothe, and heart rate stabilizes.

If a mom will try to breastfeed, whether biological or adoptive, skin-to-skin can increase the initiation of breastfeeding for baby and lactation for mom. Not only does the positioning provide for easier access to breastfeeding, but it also creates a more natural embrace for mom and baby.

Frequent skin-to-skin care can also reduce crying in an infant. Studies have shown that this contact makes babies feel more secure and protected and therefore, cry less. If crying is due to pain response, skin-to-skin has even been proven to provide faster and better relief from pain for a baby than other interventions, especially when the skin-to-skin contact lasts longer.

Skin-to-skin contact not only aids the baby, but it helps the parent as well. When a parent initiates this care with their baby, their confidence is boosted and their bonding encouraged from close contact. It also helps a parent more quickly learn to recognize baby’s communication when hungry, cold, wet, or uncomfortable. Learning the behavior of your baby increases parenting confidence as well as baby’s sense of security. Skin-to-skin contact can also improve a parent’s emotional health as it enhances the parent-child connection.

Biological parents, adoptive parents, and intended parents alike, do not be intimidated or criticized for wanting to offer great benefits and healthier connections between you and your baby. If nothing more than just taking in the sweetest snuggles, try skin-to-skin contact with your new baby and enjoy the moment.

Jill is a 32-year-old wife and mom. She has been married to her husband, Brannon, for eight years and has 5-year-old and 1-year-old daughters. Jill and her husband are currently in the adoption process to bring another baby into their home. Jill lives in a small community in Kentucky. She has her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Spanish and obtained her Master’s degree in Christian Ministries. Jill’s passions are her faith, her family, writing, playing sports, and eating good food.