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Keywords:

  • mother/infant skin-to-skin contact;
  • postpartum depressive symptoms;
  • maternal stress;
  • salivary cortisol

ABSTRACT

Objective

To investigate the effect of mother/infant skin-to-skin contact (SSC) on mothers’ postpartum depressive symptoms during the first 3 postpartum months and their physiological stress during the first postpartum month.

Design

Longitudinal quasi-experiment.

Setting

Data were collected during home visits.

Participants

Mothers in the SSC group (n = 30) provided approximately 5 hours per day of SSC with their infants in the infants’ first week and then more than 2 hours per day until the infants were age one month. Mothers in the control group (n = 60) provided little or no SSC. All mothers had full-term infants.

Methods

Mothers completed self-report depression scales when infants were 1 week, 1 month, 2 months, and 3 months of age.

Results

Compared to mothers in the control group, mothers in the SSC group had lower scores on the depression scales when the infants were one week and marginally lower scores when the infants were one month; when the infants were age 2 and 3 months, there were no differences between groups in the mothers’ depression scores. Over their infants’ first month, mothers in the SSC group had a greater reduction in their salivary cortisol than mothers in the control group.

Conclusion

Mother/infant SSC benefits mothers by reducing their depressive symptoms and physiological stress in the postpartum period.