Fathers and skin-to-skin contact
Dads: you have a vital role to play in the life of your baby!
If your baby is born full term, carrying her in skin to skin contact on your chest at birth will help her stabilise. It will be a wonderful bonding time for both of you. Babies need their dads and you can do most things in caring for your baby: You can hold her, change her nappy, carry her, talk and sing just as well as mum. There is only one thing you cannot do, breastfeed! One thing mother’s skin-to-skin contact does better than father’s is temperature control! Dads tend to overheat babies, but your baby will stick out an arm to cool herself down. (Baby in photo is 30 minutes old, and stabilizing well.)
Your baby needs you, but so does your partner! You can be a wonderful support to mum, encouraging her in breastfeeding and protecting their time together. Specially in the beginning: being a barrier to “too many visitors” is key.
In the first few weeks after birth and skin-to-skin contact, you will find that she will feel safe with you, and it will be the beginning of a deep relationship for both of you. As your baby grows you can build a special relationship of fun and security, enriched by seeing the world through the wonder of a child’s eyes!
If the mother needs a caesarean: Dads can hold their baby in skin-to-skin contact while mum recovers from the anaesthetic. In the first few days, being able to relieve mum in this way is specially valuable for her.
See the photo story of Justin’s experience.
If you have twins or triplets, Dad, you will be needed even more! See the photos in Vania’s Story.
If your baby is born premature, you may be shocked at her premature birth and feel absolutely helpless. But your support will be so valuable. A prem baby needs skin-to-skin contact even more for stabilising than a full term so you can share the time of holding her secure. You and your partner will need to support each other through this difficult time.
Nothing can properly prepare you for the time of watching your tiny baby struggling to breathe or lying on her back with tubes and lines and monitors all over her tiny body. You can find out all about the machines and medications your baby needs, and read her charts and ask staff to explain them.
You can do so much for her! Your baby will recognize your voice from all those months inside mum. Talk and sing. If your wife is expressing milk, you too can feed this through the naso-gastric tube with a syringe.
- Benefits of skin-to-skin contact for Dads:
- You will be empowered to care for your baby and not feel helpless or useless or redundant.
- You will become central to the caring team
- Better bonding
- Emotional healing
- You are calmer
- Able to read your baby’s unique cues for hunger or stress
- You can get more sleep
Jill’s book, Hold Your Prem, has a chapter dedicated to father’s role.