by Nicole Hastie
Bonding with your baby and gaining confidence in your role as a father takes time. During the early weeks and months of your baby’s life they need a lot of care; holding your baby regularly in skin to skin contact can support their development and deepen your attachment to each other. Fathers who have regular skin to skin contact with their babies report feeling more confident as a new parent and have been shown to be more attuned to their baby’s needs.
Dads who have regular skin to skin contact with their babies are more likely to be actively involved in their baby’s care overall and have an improved relationship with their partner.
Skin to skin contact releases the hormone oxytocin in both dad and baby. This hormone promotes feelings of trust, love and safety. It helps your baby to develop a strong positive attachment with you and builds the foundations of a healthy parent/child relationship.
During skin to skin contact your baby is soothed by the familiar sound of your voice, the rhythm of your heartbeat and the regular rise and fall of your chest as you breathe. This helps them to regulate their own breathing and to maintain a good temperature. When babies are left alone for long periods of time their levels of stress hormones can double.
Babies who are regularly held in skin to skin contact cry less, have longer periods of deep sleep and gain weight better than those who do not receive this care.
Sharing parenting through skin to skin contact
Parenting a newborn baby is hard work. Skin to skin contact is a great way for dads to play an active role in their newborn’s care. During the first three months of their life (known as the Fourth Trimester) they require frequent feeding, close contact and to have their other needs such as warmth and hygiene taken care of to be able to thrive. Dads can provide for many of their newborn baby’s needs and the time spent doing so is also an opportunity to bond.
Babies need to be protected from stress, which can be caused by the transition from womb to world, and also from routine painful procedures such as the heel prick test. Holding your baby skin to skin during these procedures can reduce their pain response, and they will settle more quickly afterwards.
Adjusting to a newborn’s frequent awakenings, which are completely normal, can be exhausting, particularly if mum is breastfeeding and has to meet their need for frequent feeds at all hours. Skin to skin contact can be a great way to support your partner by giving them time to rest, whilst enabling you to provide close loving contact with your baby.