The Importance of Skin-to-Skin with Dad
For many new dads, getting your shirt off in hospital in front of the midwife, mother in-law, couple of nurses, and maybe some other sightseers is pretty awkward, but don’t let that put you off! Research demonstrates that skin-to-skin with dad is great for baby, great for mum, and has lasting benefits on parental confidents and attachment.
The Benefits of Neonatal Skin-to-Skin
Chances are you didn’t get skin-to-skin with your own dad. Until recently, neo-natal care and support has focused largely on the mother-child relationship, and the benefits of early attachment.
We’ve known for a while that skin-to-skin contact with mum immediately after birth has significant benefits for baby, including stabilizing infant blood-oxygen, body temperature, and breathing rates. What’s more, skin-to-skin is associated with reduced infant crying, enhanced infant growth, successful early breastfeeding, and healthy parent-child attachment (Smith & Kroeger, 2010).
Why should dads do skin-to-skin to?
Skin-to-skin with dad has all of the above benefits for baby, with some added bonuses as well. For example, attachment hormones like oxytocin increase in dad’s almost immediately while giving skin-to-skin, strengthening the paternal bond (Hall, 2018).
More importantly, dad’s confidence in his new role grows. This is significant because confident dads provide more sensory stimulation, physical care, emotional warmth, nurturing, and ‘fathering' (Chan et al., 2017)
Chan et al. highlight that children who have experienced this kind of active and positive ‘fathering’ from an early age are more likely to develop trusting relationships with positive attitudes and expectations.
The benefits of skin-to-skin with dad are clear, and many birthing institutions are now introducing skin-to-skin with dad as a routine part of neonatal practice.
When should dad do skin-to-skin?
The best time to do skin-to-skin will be different for every dad. Hall (2018) highlights that, for lots of reasons, not every mother is able or willing to do skin-to-skin immediately after birth, so this is a great opportunity for dad to step into his new role and begin the bonding process.
More commonly, dad will find opportunities between feeds, and when mum needs a rest. For example, I spent much of the first few weeks of my son’s life rocking gently in the lounge at all hours of the morning and night, my son sleeping on my chest. I wouldn’t give that up for anything.
Whats the best way to do skin-to-skin?
Dad should be sitting comfortably with his back supported and his shirt off. Baby should be naked or wearing just a nappy. Lie baby chest to chest with dad, so that baby can hear and feel dad’s heart beating, then place some warm blankets over both of them.
You might want a bit a help the first time, but very soon you’ll be an expert!
For more information on skin-to-skin, read this amazing study by Chan et al. (2017), which clearly highlights the benefits of skin-to-skin with dad.
Author: Parent Village aims to provide relevant, useful, and research based information to parents and caregivers.
Chen, E. M., Gau, M. L., Liu, C. Y., & Lee, T. Y. (2017). Effects of Father-Neonate Skin-to-Skin Contact on Attachment: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Nursing research and practice, 2017, 8612024. https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/8612024
Smith L., Kroeger M. Impact of Birthing Practices on Breastfeeding. Sudbury, Mass, USA: Jones and Barlett Publishers; 2010.
Hall, A. (2010). This study shows just how important it is for dads to participate in skin-to-skin. Retrived from https://www.romper.com/p/this-study-shows-just-how-important-it-is-for-dads-to-participate-in-skin-to-skin-12152623