For mothers your bond with your baby often begins at some point during your pregnancy. As your baby grows and develops you are consciously aware of this new life and feel a connection on some level. For father’s or non birthing parents, that connection doesn’t often start until after birth. A priority should be placed on taking some time in the first 24 hours of their a child’s life to perform skin to skin with dad or non birthing parent. These first steps in creating that bond will go far beyond the first 24-48 hours. It can lead to lasting benefits for child, parent, and family.
What is Skin to Skin Contact?
This is when you place your newborn or infant directly onto a parent’s bare chest. This allows for direct physical contact of your skin with the infant’s skin. A blanket or clothing can then be placed over the top of the infant to keep heat in and ensure your baby stays warm. This can be done during the “golden hour” aka the first 60 minutes of birth or anytime after the infant is born. There are long term continuing benefits as you practice skin to skin interactions past the first few hours of life.
Benefits to Fathers
There is a wealth of research available discussing the benefits between mothers and infants that implement skin to skin practices. There is less research that has been done to evaluate the benefits of dads or non birthing parents implementing skin to skin with their newborns. Recent studies to investigate skin to skin with dads showed significant evidence to suggest the following benefits:
- Fathers rated lower scores of anxiety or depression – felt more incontrol and at ease
- Father reported feeling better about their roles as a new parent
- Improved communicated with infant and with the mother
- Increased involved in infant care which lead to establishment of a greater bond and attachment between infant
- Expressed feeling more included and needed which often lead to more equal parenthood in the future
Benefits to Newborn
Infants benefit greatly from skin to skin with dad or the non birthing parent. Many of the benefits are similar to skin to skin with mom. However, building a unique bond with the father early on can often lead to a more positive relationship between father and child long term. Below are some of the immediate and long term benefits from skin to skin with non birthing parent:
- Thermoregulation- higher body temperatures when regulated by non birthing parent’s body heat
- Lower cortisol levels = lower stress response
- Decreased pain response during heel stick procedures
- More organized sleep patterns
- Longer periods of alert wakefulness and quiet sleep states
- Scored higher on the Bayley Scales of infant development and psychomotor developmental index at 6 months
- Improved parent infant attachment
- Decreased crying
- Reduced cognitive delay
- Kickstarts immune system with the natural flora on dad’s skin
Some of these benefits such as lower stress responses, more organized sleep, better cognitive control, and lasting social and behavioral benefits are seen many years beyond birth.
How to do Skin to Skin:
- Get your baby naked or only wearing a diaper.
- Parent should be wearing an open front shirt or be shirtless. Then place the infant on your bare chest while in a semi reclined position.
- You can place a blanket or pull shirt around the infant to keep them warm. Your body heat will also warm the baby.
- Dads or non birthing parents should limit skin to skin to 60 minutes or less so they do not overheat the infant. Mother’s breast are acutally able cool baby if they get too warm.
- Ensure that you can see the baby’s face. Their head should be turned to the side and mouth and nose should remained uncovered.
- Snuggle up and enjoy the blessings of skin to skin with dad or the non birthing partner.
Frequently Asked Questions
Skin to Skin with dad or a non birthing parent should be prioritized for the benefits of your child, the parents, and the family as a whole. Research has long supported skin to skin with mom, but we need to shift to also prioritizing the bond between non birthing parents as well to build lasting positive relationships that will support long term health for everyone. The beauty of it is, its free and only requires your time. Sparing 15-30 minutes of your time on a regular basis will prove wonders for your family long term.
Jess is a registered nurse with over 6+ years of critical care experience for patients young and old and is the mother of two small children. After having her own children she felt inspired to provide mothers with real actionable guidance and education to make informed decisions throughout their pregnancy and postpartum experience.