The Benefits Of Skin To Skin With Dad, And How To Do It

Benefits of skin to skin with dad

A bare skin newborn resting on your bare chest isn’t just sharing affection. The warm contact between baby and parent skin releases oxytocin, the love hormone, and transfers body heat and bacteria that can help your baby (and you!) be healthier and happier. But there are even more studied skin to skin benefits: Skin to skin helps newborns adjust to life outside the womb, improves bonds long after birth, lowers stress levels (for both babies and parents), promotes breastfeeding, and even lessens crying. Still, how do you go skin to skin? And how often? It depends. Here’s what the science says.

The Benefits of Skin to Skin With Dad And Mom

In the womb, the mother’s body regulates her fetuses vitals. However, at birth, infants are on their own, breathing for the first time and suddenly managing their own heart rate and temperature. It’s quite the transition period, according to Deborah E. Campbell, M.D., director of the Division of Neonatology at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore. But staying close to mom or dad via skin to skin can have remarkable benefits to ease that transition.

In fact, the AAP recommends skin to skin occur between mom and baby as soon after birth as mom is awake and stable, and that it continue for an hour, with urgent procedures, tests, and check-ins (like the APGAR tests) being performed in this position, and any procedures that require separating mom and baby delayed until an hour of skin to skin and the first breastfeed has taken place.

A 2012 literature review of 34 randomized controlled trials of skin-to-skin reveals why the recommendation makes so much sense. Researchers found that the contact of flesh helped establish and sustain breastfeeding, maintain the baby’s body temperature, stabilize their blood sugar, shorten the time they spent crying, and in the case of premature babies, helped stabilize their heart rate, all with no other negative side effects. Newer research shows skin-to-skin may promote healthy brain development in babies and reduce the risk of postpartum depression in parents.

There are a couple of key reasons skin to skin contact is considered so effective in boosting outcomes for new families.

One of the most immediate effects of skin-to-skin is helping babies stabilize their body temperature. At birth, when babies are exposed to air for the first time, often in a cold environment like a delivery room, their temperature drops an average of 2 to 4 degrees Celsius. But “Mom’s body has a unique ability, when an infant is placed on the mom’s chest, to regulate her body temperature to keep her baby warm,” Campbell says.

In fact, one randomized controlled trial of 100 babies found that those who did skin-to-skin immediately after birth were eight times less likely to develop hypothermia than infants who were cleaned and clothed in a warming area. And even for babies who do become hypothermic, skin-to-skin has been shown to be as effective in warming them as an incubator.

Skin to skin is correlated with higher breastfeeding rates for up to four months after birth, according to a literature review of 13 studies on the subject. On average, new moms who did skin-to-skin soon after birth breastfed for almost six weeks longer than those who didn’t.

Researchers believe this has to do with the heightened alertness and sense of smell newborns have when they’re born. They’re hardwired to find their mother’s nipple, and when there are no clothes between them the mother’s skin to her body temperature and the smell of her nipple, prompts infants to seek out the nipple and establish feeding routines.

Researchers think that the hormone oxytocin is the driver. Since oxytocin reduces stress and anxiety, researchers suspect it helps mothers feel a calm sense of bonding and mastery which leads to confidence, increasing breastfeeding duration. Basically, when mom feels good about breastfeeding, she’s more likely to keep doing it.

Unsurprisingly, babies who are snuggled against a parent’s chest also tend to be calmer. A small (30 infant) 1995 randomized controlled trial found that when babies were held skin-to-skin soon after birth, only 14% of them spent more than one of their first 90 minutes of life crying. But when babies were cared for in cots, 93% cried for more than a minute. Researchers theorized that infants, much like other mammals, instinctually recognize separation from their mother and that crying is a “genetically encoded reaction to separation” that serves as a way to “restore proximity to the mother.”

The ability of skin to skin to bring comfort to infants even holds true long after birth. Babies held skin-to-skin during heel pricks, blood draws, and shots have been shown to cry less. They also have lower heart rates and levels of stress hormones, and maintain more neutral facial expressions, suggesting less pain.

Skin to Skin After a C-Section

When it comes to routine cesarean sections, “A baby can certainly still do skin to skin,” Campbell says. This may happen in the operating room, or shortly after in a recovery room. Research on skin-to-skin after C-sections has shown that it lowers moms’ pain levels and makes them feel more satisfied and less anxious, and is even associated with the use of less medication. However, when a parent undergoing a C-section is unable to do skin-to-skin due to nausea or rare general anesthetic, some hospitals will let the other parent have skin-to-skin time, Campbell says.

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While most research focuses on skin-to-skin done between babies and their mothers, there’s evidence that babies reap similar benefits from skin to skin with dad. One study of infants born via a cesarean found that those who did skin to skin with their dads shortly after birth had more stable heart rates and body temperatures, cried less, and ate sooner. Plus, the dads scored lower for anxiety and depression and bonded with their babies more quickly.

If an infant is premature, skin-to-skin will operate on a case-to-case basis. “It’s a matter of how much support that baby is on…There is greater emphasis in recent years in terms of trying to help parents provide skin-to-skin care when a baby is physiologically ready, as early as possible,” Campbell says. There’s good evidence that skin-to-skin can improve the health of premature infants, and even help parents feel less helpless when their baby has to stay in the NICU, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

When Can’t Skin to Skin Be Done?

  • Babies with very low APGAR scores or other complications may need to be more closely monitored than skin to skin would allow for.
  • In the rare case that a C-section is done under general anesthesia, skin to skin with mom will be delayed until she’s awake and alert.
  • If a baby is healthy, Campbell says there are very few situations when skin-to-skin with a parent wouldn’t be advisable, barring an active infection on the parent’s chest or an active respiratory infection like the flu. HIV-positive parents can do skin to skin too with extra precautions, such as not letting the baby latch onto the breast.

A Year of Skin to Skin

Well after a baby is born, skin to skin continues to bring benefits to both parents and baby. Doing skin-to-skin on either parent exposes baby to the good bacteria on their parents chest, helping to build their immune system. In the case of a breastfeeding parent, this exposure helps customize breastmilk, as the body produces antibodies in response to what bacteria the baby has.

There are plenty of benefits for parents too. Researchers suspect that the hit of oxytocin that skin-to-skin triggers makes it a powerful tool for warding off depression and making parents feel less stressed.

One 2017 randomized controlled trial found that dads who did skin-to-skin for at least 15 minutes on the day of their baby’s birth and the following three days had stronger attachments to their babies than dads who held their babies while clothed.

Researchers measured attachment with a well-known tool called the Father-Child Attachment Scale, a survey where dads reported how often they talked to, touched, cared for, and explored their child. They suggested that holding their infants skin to skin helped dads understand their baby’s needs. The researchers also theorized that the release of oxytocin (sometimes referred to as the love hormone/neurotransmitter) associated with skin to skin helps relax parents and reduce their stress levels, which further promotes bonding.

The authors cite a study that found that skin to skin not only lead to increased oxytocin levels in both mother and fathers but also increased cortisol levels. This is notable because a 2018 study of almost 300 father-infant pairs found that dads whose cortisol levels rose when they first held their baby were more involved with their baby’s care months later.

— Update: 29-03-2023 — found an additional article The Importance of Skin-to-Skin with Daddy from the website for the keyword benefits of skin to skin with dad.

Benefits of skin to skin with dad

Because of increased research and awareness of the ‘golden hour’ – the period immediately after a mother gives birth and bonds with her newborn – skin-to-skin contact is often associated with mothers and babies. While this period is very important, helping to boost baby’s ability to receive breastfeeding, support their immune system, improve cognitive development and strengthen the baby-parent bond, the benefits of skin-to-skin contact extend far beyond the maternity ward.

There are many reasons why skin-to-skin time, sometimes called ‘kangaroo care’, is as important for dad and baby as it is for mom. Here are some of the ways skin-to-skin care benefits both daddy and baby.  


Skin-to-skin Contact Releases a Hormone Necessary for Bonding 

Contending with nine months of mom bonding with baby before the little one has even arrived, it’s common for some dads to feel a little alienated when it comes to navigating father-baby bonding. The good news is, skin-to-skin contact is one of the simplest and most effective ways for daddy to bond with his newborn. Research by Dr. Nils Bergman skin-to-skin shows just 30 minutes of skin-to-skin with dad actually rewires dad’s brain!

When a dad brings baby to their chest, Oxytocin, often referred to as the ‘love’ or ‘feel-good’ hormone, is released. Dad’s testosterone levels also decrease, making both dad and baby feel lighter, more relaxed and at ease when sharing these new and special moments.  

In turn, this helps dad to respond in a nurturing and affectionate way toward baby and create a stronger bond. With a higher sensitivity to and awareness of baby’s needs, dad is likely to feel more tuned-in to his infant and more confident about their parenting skills.

Read more  Why Every Dad Should Have Skin To Skin Time When Baby Is Born

It Keeps Baby Warm and Provides Comfort

It may sound pretty obvious, but one of the benefits of skin-to-skin contact is its effectiveness in keeping baby warm. It also helps to soothe baby, with babies who are held skin-to-skin being 12 times less likely to cry!

However, while a woman’s biological breast tissue automatically adjusts to regulate baby’s body temperature – making baby cooler or warmer – an individual without breast tissue, for example a man, only heats baby. It’s therefore recommended that dad only holds baby skin-to-skin for sixty minutes at a time to avoid causing your newborn to get uncomfortably cozy! These shorter periods are perfect for taking turns with your partner! 

Your Newborn Baby’s Stress Levels Become Lower, and Physiological Development Increases 

Emerging into the bright, noisy world after spending nine months in the dark comfort of the womb is a big shock for babies! Skin-to-skin contact helps your baby to feel safe, and they will also be able to hear and recognize familiar sounds while snuggling, like daddy’s voice. 

Studies show that babies who are held skin-to-skin are more physiologically stable than babies who aren’t. In addition to less crying, skin-to-skin with dad can cause baby’s cortisol levels (also known as the stress hormone) to drop after only 20 minutes of being held. It also helps to stabilize baby’s breathing, heart rate, blood sugar levels and even lower their pain response.

We hear a lot about how skin-to-skin contact between babies and mothers boosts babies’ immune systems, but the same is true for baby when held by daddy. A dad’s immune system is able to pass antibodies from their skin, making baby more resistant to illness.

Daddy Can Have Hands-Free Movement While Practicing Skin-to-Skin care 

Skin-to-skin contact with your newborn is one of life’s most rewarding experiences, and experts recommend maximizing skin-to-skin contact with your baby throughout the fourth trimester and beyond. With the help of the Joeyband™, dad and baby can reap the benefits of skin-to-skin contact without sacrificing hand mobility!

Our safe, secure design means that dad can get those all important snuggles in while being hands free to ping the family chat new baby updates (or even sneak in a quick game of Minecraft!). Most importantly, the Joeyband™ keeps baby safe during skin-to-skin contact, and allows new parents to feel as comfortable as possible caring for their new, precious addition. 

So whether daddy holds baby an hour after birth, throughout the Fourth Trimester or even further into baby’s life, skin-to-skin contact will always be an effective form of babycare, helping dad to forge a bond with the newborn that will last a lifetime.

Follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or subscribe to our newsletter for our latest news and updates, or for more useful, baby-handling knowledge from our experienced Joeyband™ team.

— Update: 29-03-2023 — found an additional article Effects of Father-Neonate Skin-to-Skin Contact on Attachment: A Randomized Controlled Trial from the website for the keyword benefits of skin to skin with dad.

1. Introduction

Perinatal care typically focuses on the postpartum mother and her newborn infants. Reflecting this phenomenon, most perinatal care research has focused on the mother during the pregnancy and birthing experience, excluding the feelings and functions of the father [1]. A qualitative study by Hsieh (2001) [2] found that new parents begin to experience parenting anxiety from the moment their child is born. They accumulate the experience necessary to realize their ideal parenting roles using adjustments, tradeoffs, trial and error, and external assistance. Apart from confronting the needs of new mothers and newborn infants, postnatal care delivered by nurses and midwives should benefit new fathers as well. For some men, the significance of being a father begins at childbirth [3].

Numerous studies have demonstrated the efficacy of “kangaroo care” (skin-to-skin contact, SSC) in stabilizing the blood-oxygen level, body temperature, and breathing rate of neonates. Moreover, SSC reduces infant crying, enhances infant growth and development, stimulates early breastfeeding, increases lactation, and enhances the parent-child attachment relationship [4–7]. Further, parental SSC with one’s child that is performed with the intention of deepening attachment and emotional relationships has been shown to raise parental confidence toward child care [8]. Activities, such as allowing new fathers to see the face of their newborn, hug or touch their newborn, and engage in SSC, facilitate the role transition of expectant fathers [9, 10]. The first instance of intimate contact between a father and his child creates self-awareness for the former—who is a key provider for the newborn—and may further catalyze feelings of affinity and protectiveness [11].

New fathers have been shown not only to develop close emotional ties with their child 3 days postpartum, but also to invest and sustain a strong interest in him or her during this period [12, 13]. Consequently, skin-to-skin contact may help decrease parental anxiety and enhance the dependency relationship. More frequent interaction with his infant may indicate that a father is providing increased levels of positive parenting behavior as measured by the five facets: sensory stimulation, physical care, warmth, nurturing, and “fathering” [9, 10, 13]. According to Mau and Huang (2010) [14], the father plays a pivotal role in terms of family functionality, childhood development, and child well-being [14]. Children with positive father-child relationships may develop models of caregivers as trustworthy and supportive and later approach others with positive attitudes and expectations [15].

Postpartum father-neonate SSC engenders strong feelings in the father for his newborn, increases the infant’s environmental stimulation, provides critical emotional support, and encourages the father to become actively involved in infant caring responsibilities [9, 10]. Touching, massaging, and hugging an infant as well as learning to respond appropriately to an infant’s crying each help new fathers properly interpret changes to infant appearance and behavior; provide appropriate information; reduce parenthood discomfort and anxiety; better prepare for parenting role responsibilities; and increase infant care confidence [14, 16]. Several studies affirm that early father-neonate contact not only fosters a close father-neonate relationship, but also hastens the development of paternal attachments. These benefits suggest that fathers may assume a greater role in early postpartum parental touch when new mothers are physically weak [17, 18].

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Today, it is common for expectant fathers to actively participate in the childbirth process as well as to reminisce on the experience with their spouse or others. This study implemented a SSC intervention for fathers and their newborn infants during postpartum hospitalization, observing the intervention effects on father-child attachment. Results are intended as a reference to help maternity ward staff and administrators provide high-quality, family-centered care.

— Update: 12-04-2023 — found an additional article Why Every Dad Should Have Skin To Skin Time When Baby Is Born from the website for the keyword benefits of skin to skin with dad.

Much of preparing for birth and the postnatal period revolves around mother and baby.

Certainly for good reason: both work incredibly hard and both deserve those amazing moments in the first hour after birth.

However, more research continues to surface about the importance of dad’s role during birth and the postnatal period.

In fact, even beyond the immediate postnatal period, we’ve recently learned that dad’s interactions can impact a child’s social and emotional health for the first 10 years, but likely much longer.

Dads Should Have Skin To Skin Time When Baby Is Born

Dr. Nils Bergman recently presented at the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine and shared current research about the importance of skin to skin.

What he shared which isn’t as commonly discussed is how important skin to skin time is for dad because it actually rewires dad’s brain.

Why Is Skin To Skin So Important?

Skin to skin time is often suggested as an optimal activity to give your baby a better start.

However, research now shows that we shouldn’t look at skin to skin as something to do to boost our baby’s start but rather look at it as the biological norm that it is.

Because skin to skin between mother and baby immediately after birth is the biological norm, we now know that interrupting immediate skin to skin actually has risks.

But how does this relate to dad?

Dr. Nils Bergman recently presented research that shows just 30 minutes of skin to skin with dad actually rewires dad’s brain.

Mothers have the advantage of the natural hormonal changes during and immediately following birth, especially the hormone oxytocin, to help their maternal instincts kick in.

For dad, time spent with and caring for baby helps the bonding process. But skin to skin actually rewires his brain.

How Does Skin To Skin Rewire Dad’s Brain?

Many of our bodily processes are run by and impacted by our hormones. Our hormones are influenced by many things including our environment and actions.

When dad spends time skin to skin with his newborn hormonal changes occur including a rise in dopamine. Dopamine is responsible for many things including pleasure.

A rise in dopamine plus the release of oxytocin means dad’s brain creates a positive association with close interaction with baby. It seems that skin to skin with dad can help dad’s natural parenting instincts to kick in.

Why Is This Important?

Certainly many dads have gone without skin to skin contact and been excellent, hands on parents. It isn’t something that if skipped will mean a poor parental bond.

However, it does seem that research shows this natural rewiring can be an important part in early parenting. Perhaps it’s something to do with a biological positive association with baby.

When it’s 2 am and baby is crying…again…that positive association could mean coping just a bit better. When baby is fussing with her mama, it could mean stepping in without request to offer a hand.

It might mean being just a bit more confident in being more hands on. Or opting to wear or hold baby rather than swaddling and putting in the swing for extended periods of time (baby gear isn’t inherently bad, but they can be overused).

“Every Infant Should Have 30 Minutes Of Skin To Skin With Father On The First Day”

While what happens on the first day or so of life isn’t the end all be all of parental success, it can and does play a role in baby’s development as well as parental child bonds.

We often hear about the importance of skin to skin between mother and baby as it helps prevent postnatal haemorrhage, aides in beginning lactation, and helps stabilise baby’s breathing and temperature.

We don’t always hear about the importance of skin to skin with dad. Baby benefits from any close contact, but it seems in this situation, dad also has a lot to gain biologically from skin to skin.

By encouraging this contact on the first day of life, we can help dads begin parenthood in a positive way. Rewiring the brain to seek close contact with baby can mean an easier transition not only for dad but also for baby and mother.

Recommended Reading:

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