Should Dads Do Skin To Skin?

Moments after the birth of my fourth child, the OB handed my newborn baby boy to my husband. I had complications from the delivery, and for upwards of an hour, a gaggle of doctors and nurses were positioned squarely at the foot of my bed, trying to determine if I needed surgery. As scary terms like “potential rupture” and “postpartum hemorrhage” floated through the air, I looked over at my husband, who was serenely sitting next to me, sans shirt, holding our baby boy skin-to-skin.

As it turns out, dads doing skin-to-skin isn’t all that uncommon in today’s delivery rooms. But kangaroo care, as it’s also commonly referred to, is still a fairly new concept. According to a Healthy Children article, kangaroo care originated in South America. With a shortage of incubators to house the hospitals’ tiniest residents, new moms were often encouraged to hold their babies skin-to-skin as a way to keep preemies warm, and eventually leave the hospital with their familias.

Whether you or your sweetie does it, skin-to-skin certainly has its benefits. In addition to the natural warmth exchanged between parent and child, all that close cuddle time can help your babe regulate her breathing, body temperature, and heartbeat. It aids in better sleep for your baby, and also helps your little one to eventually pack on the pounds.

While it’s often thought that moms would be the ones to do skin-to-skin (because, well…boobs), dads can also be an important part of this process, too. Dr. Nils Bergman, a South African-based specialist in perinatal neuroscience, found that when new dads hold their babies for just 30 minutes a day, it can actually trigger a spike in dopamine. Meaning, holding their baby can literally rewire a dad’s brain. As Dr. Bergman told Today’s Parent: “A newborn’s brain development depends on positive sensory stimulation.” The good news is that your baby can greatly benefit from scoring skin-to-skin contact from her daddy just as she will from you.

But what if your sweetie isn’t exactly sold on skin-to-skin? I’ll admit, I doubt that my husband was planning to strip down to his pants and hold a newborn in a bright and bustling hospital room. Thing is, instinct oftentimes kicks in, and when there’s a need (say, your wife potentially needing emergency surgery), your hubby will probably do whatever needs to be done.

So in that moment, when I looked over at my shirtless sweetie cooing at his newborn son, I felt a big new wave of love wash over me. Because, honestly, is there anything sexier than a father protectively and lovingly holding his child? I think not. And in all the chaos of labor and delivery, when dads are sometimes just a sideline cheerleader, being able to do skin-to-skin with the baby empowered him. It helped him to not only take care of me, but our baby, too.

When we left the hospital with baby Andrew, my husband still continued skin-to-skin contact at home. With three other children in the house who needed me, I was grateful for the extra pair of loving arms (and warm chest) for the baby to nestle in on while I cooked, or heck, just even took a shower. And truth be told, my husband loved that special time with our newborn, when they would both snuggle close and fall asleep together. Chalk it up to the love between a father and his baby, (or more likely, some serious sleep deprivation), and together, they were out like a light. Skin-to-skin helped to build a bond between them that will hopefully last a lifetime.

Or at least, until those surly teenage years.

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