Skin to skin is very important for a newborn baby. It is when the baby is placed belly-down, directly on the mother’s chest immediately after birth. But what about the dads? When should dad do skin to skin?
Dad should do skin to skin contact with the baby within 1 hour after the baby’s birth, and as much as possible for months after. Priority should be given to mom and baby skin to skin, and then mom can take a break and let dad do skin to skin. There are many benefits for the dad during skin to skin.
Babies get much of the same benefits from skin to skin with the dad as with mom, plus it gives a chance for dad to bond with the baby and become a better father. If dad is unable to skin to skin within an hour after birth, don’t worry as he can still bond at a later time. But within an hour after birth is best for bonding.
Read on to learn more about when dad should do skin to skin and why it’s important!
When Should Dad Do Skin to Skin?
For mothers who have given birth vaginally or via C-section, skin to skin contact should be practiced immediately. Depending on the medical situation the mother or the baby may find themselves in, you should aim to have skin to skin contact within the first hour of birth. This is called the “golden hour” – the mother and the baby are in the ideal time to create an intense chemical connection with each other.
If both the mom and the baby are healthy, skin to skin contact can be started immediately. Fathers can do skin to skin contact immediately as well – while the mom is being attended to, or when she is still birthing the placenta, or being stitched up, he can receive the baby on his bare chest and start bonding with the baby.
So dad should do skin to skin within an hour after birth and as much as possible for months after. Priority should be given to the mother because the baby recognizes the mother’s heartbeat, scent and sounds more. It is calming for the baby to do skin to skin with mother for these reasons. But when the mother has to attend to other things or to take a break, it is a perfect opportunity for dad to do skin to skin with the baby. It will increase the bond between baby and dad.
What is Skin to Skin Contact?
Skin to skin contact is when your baby lies on your chest, with your skin touching each other. Whenever in this position, be sure to put a blanket over the baby to keep them warm. When should dad do skin to skin and for how long? Both mother and father can keep doing skin to skin contact from the baby’s birth and for months after, as long as the baby is happy with it.
However, as the baby gets older, they may become restless and move away. This is a sign that your baby needs space. Dad and mom can bond with baby in other ways like during playtime, snuggling, or even holding hands.
Benefits of Skin to Skin Contact Between Baby and Dad
A lot of the details surrounding birth – before and after it – is centered on the mother and the baby. Mothers have the benefit of hormones rushing through her body that help in giving her a boost of energy which helps push the baby out, and helps in producing milk.
Dads can experience a release of these hormones as well. When the baby is placed on dad’s bare chest, they can release oxytocin, which is also known as the love hormone. This helps dad connect and bond with the baby.
There are many benefits of skin to skin contact for both the mom, the baby, and for dad! Here are some of the benefits of skin to skin contact.
- Control temperature: Both moms and dads can become natural incubators and regulate temperatures depending on what their baby needs.
- Regulate the baby’s heartbeat: Skin to skin contact can help regulate the baby’s heartbeat and even help them to get to sleep faster, whether the skin to skin contact is done by dad or mom.
- Bonding: Both mom and dad release hormones like oxytocin and endorphins, which help in bonding emotionally with the baby. These hormones help instill feelings of love and protectiveness. For moms, these hormones help in reducing the risk of postnatal depression. For both moms and dads, these hormones can help reduce stress.
- Helps baby stop crying: A great time when should dad do skin to skin is when the baby is crying. Skin to skin contact helps reduce crying, including snuggling during the day. This helps in making the baby feel comfortable and that they are not alone.
- Helps baby feel safe: Your baby spent nine months in the dark comfort of the womb, and all the lights and noises of the outside world are definitely a shock. Skin to skin contact and snuggling can help make your baby feel safe. Your baby will also hear and recognize familiar sounds while snuggling, like your voice.
- Enhance baby’s immune system: When the father has skin to skin contact with the baby, the baby’s immune system is enhanced. Dad’s immune system is able to pass antibodies from his skin to the baby. This helps in making the baby more resistant to sickness.
- Accelerate the baby’s brain development: Skin to skin between baby, and dad or mom gives the baby a multi-sensory experience. It may seem simple, but holding the baby against your skin actually encourages the development of neural pathways, which in turns accelerates the baby’s brain development.
Skin to skin contact with baby, either by mom or dad, at any time of the day is a great way to bond and connect with baby. Moms can use the free time to get some rest, and that is dad can take over and do skin to skin. Giving birth is no easy task – either vaginally or via C-section so mom will need rest and breaks!
Dads and Skin to Skin Contact
When fathers have skin to skin contact with their baby, oxytocin levels in his body increase, which in turn lowers his testosterone levels. This change in the levels of hormones in dad’s body helps encourage relaxation as well as nurturing and affectionate behaviors towards the baby. This also helps in increasing dad’s confidence in his parenting skills and forming a bond with the baby.
To get started, dad takes his shirt off. He should sit in a semi-reclined position, and the baby should only be wearing a diaper. Baby should be placed in a vertical position against dad’s chest, with their shoulders on or above dad’s breastbone. The baby should have a blanket for warmth.
Check-in with the baby frequently, making sure their nose and mouth are not covered. The baby’s head should also be turned on one side with the neck straight.
Any time of the day is a great time for dad do skin to skin contact. This actually helps in rewiring dad’s brain – this helps in getting dad’s parenting instincts started. Skin to skin contact with dad and the baby helps dad to create a positive association with the baby. It also helps them get to know baby a bit better, even understanding and being able to differentiate the baby’s sounds and cries.
There are many ways dad and baby can enjoy skin to skin contact. The most common one is sitting down in a rocking chair or any other comfortable seat where the baby can lay on dad’s chest. Another way is during bath time when the baby is a bit older – dad and baby can enjoy skin to skin contact in the shower or the bathtub, and make bath time less terrifying for baby.
Delayed Skin to Skin
What if the mom is not able to hold the baby immediately after birth? This is when dad should do skin to skin – it’s the next best thing after mom! Complications may arise, and the mom or the baby may need extra attention from medical professionals after birth. Dad can step in and hold the baby close.
The benefits of skin to skin contact are well-known by medical professionals, and if everything is well, moms can hold their babies as soon as possible. During a C-section, dads can do skin to skin while mom is being stitched up and resting in the recovery room. A dad’s interaction with the baby leaves a lasting impact in both their social and emotional health for many years to come.
Even if the mom is not able to hold the baby immediately after birth for skin to skin contact, the interaction at a later time is still valuable and delivers many benefits. Moms should not feel pressured to have skin to skin contact if it’s not possible – there will be lots of time to bond with baby.
So when should dad do skin to skin? Dads should do skin to skin contact with the baby as soon as possible after birth. Priority should be given to the mother as baby is familiar with mom’s sounds, scents, and heartbeat. But if mom can’t do skin to skin or when mom needs a break, dad should do skin to skin at that time.
The general practice is that once the baby is weighed, checked and then wrapped or dressed, this is the time when the baby gets to be held. The mom should do skin to skin first but then dad should take a turn soon after. More studies about the benefits of skin to skin contact are being made about skin to skin contact between dad and baby.  And the sooner it’s done, the better it is, for bonding, parenting instincts, and much more.
If certain conditions or complications prevent the mom and/or dad from holding the baby immediately after birth, don’t worry! Sometimes the baby just needs more time with the pediatrician, or maybe the mom needs more time with her doctor. What’s important is that skin to skin contact is started as soon as possible, including for dad!