A lasting bond

There’s no question that most babies should be going skin-to-skin (S2S) with mom immediately after birth.

“There are so many important things that need to happen for both of them to get breastfeeding off to a good start, and for the newborn’s instinctive behavior, the contractions of the uterus, etc., etc.,” S2S guru Kajsa Brimdyr, PhD, CLC explains.

Source: United States Breastfeeding Committee

After the first hour though, preliminary research shows skin-to-skin contact (SSC) with dad has impressive bonding implications.

For instance, Cong’s, et al Parental oxytocin responses during skin-to-skin contact in pre-term infants. demonstrates that “SSC plays a positive role in early post-partum period and patterns of maternal and paternal bio-behavioral responses to SSC with pre-term infants might be different.”

Brimdyr expounds: “SSC increases oxytocin and decreases cortisol levels (stress) in both mothers and fathers, but the mother’s oxytocin levels go down after S2S stops.

The father’s remain at an elevated level.

[SSC] is having a lasting effect on his connection and bonding to the baby.

The mother’s oxytocin levels will go back up the next time she breastfeeds, so nature has already built in constant oxytocin boosts for mom, and apparently nature has built in a lasting oxytocin boost for dad. Amazing!”

Source: United States Breastfeeding Committee

Another piece of research, Chen’s, et al Effects of Father-Neonate Skin-to-Skin Contact on Attachment: A Randomized Controlled Trial., shows that fathers who had 15 minutes of SSC with their newborn for the first three days postpartum scored higher on the Father-Child Attachment Scale (FCAS).  

“[This is] just a beginning but already showing promising results,” Brimdyr comments.

The preliminary findings are especially significant considering most fathers can’t breastfeed, leaving many families concerned about the father-baby bond. Adding SSC to the list of ways dads can bond with their babies offers perhaps an even more profound bonding opportunity than other suggestions like bathing baby, taking baby for a walk, or singing to baby.

In pop culture, Dwayne Johnson “The Rock”, is helping American families see the possibilities of SSC.

After the birth of his third daughter, he posted on social media a stunning photo of himself and baby Tiana Gia S2S, her wrinkled newbornness nestled into his decorated body.

“Skin to skin. Our mana. Blessed and proud to bring another strong girl into this world…” Johnson wrote.

Source: United States Breastfeeding Committee

Johnson also sets an example of what breastfeeding support can look like in a photo where he spoon-feeds his partner while she feeds their baby.

In another viral post, NINO Birth shared a photo of a father and big brother going S2S with twins along with a description translated from the original post.

“Revolutionary and innovative practices in Uppsala, Sweden. Children of 700 grams can be skin to skin on the parent’s chest instead of the incubator.

A Swedish Professor Uwe Ewald, came to Hvidovre hospital (Denmark) to talk about his revolutionary practice, where even very small premature babies are taken out of the incubator to be skin to skin with their parents as much as possible. Premature babies, born three months prematurely, are put on the parent’s chest instead of alone in an incubator.

Uwe Ewald points out that the parent’s chest regulates the temperature better than an incubator. Skin to skin contact helps the baby to breathe better. The child becomes more calm and gains weight faster. Research shows that parents bacterial flora – compared with hospital bacteria – reduces the risk of serious infections in these delicate children…”

The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) features a Men’s Initiative that aims to involve men in the global effort to protect, promote and support breastfeeding.

WABA’s Bridging the gap of gender equality in rural communities through breastfeeding describes how men can play a role in caring for their families and their communities with the ultimate goal of gender equality.

It states “…breastfeeding plays a particularly important role in the health and wellbeing of families. This means that breastfeeding needs to be supported by everyone in the community, including men and boys.”

It goes on, “Hormonal and neurobiological changes happen in both men and women, and can result in more nurturing behaviors toward their child, if they are supported to do so.  This premise unleashes the potential of fathers and men, and mothers and women, to shun stereotypical assumptions about nurturing, caregiving and work together toward greater gender equality.”  

SSC between father and baby is enjoyable for most families, and it’s an achievable action for maternal child health advocates to encourage and facilitate this practice. SSC between father and baby is a stepping stone toward the healthy, just and more equal society we envision.

Happy Father’s Day!

Please share your images of father and baby enjoying S2S snuggles!

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