Fathers often find it challenging to connect with their newborn. Before becoming a parent, most men have had little contact with infants. Furthermore, they play a secondary role in the birthing process. When baby arrives, dads can be tentative, awkward, and unskilled interacting with the newest member of the family.
An easy way to make a lasting impression on your child and provide invaluable developmental benefits is to establish regular opportunities for skin to skin contact. Research substantiates that holding your baby bare chest to bare chest – particularly within hours of birth – leaves newborns calmer, less prone to crying, and more disposed to cycles of “quiet sleep”, a natural deep sleep state that lasts at least 60 minutes.
Like with Mom, skin to skin contact with Dad advances brain maturation by stimulating new neural pathways in your infant’s developing mind. Dad’s bare chest helps maintain baby’s blood sugar within typical levels and stabilizes the infant’s body temperature. Resting on Dad’s chest also increases the child’s skin hydration, which provides a protective barrier from harmful bacteria entering baby’s skin. In addition, skin to skin contact pumps out Oxytocin, the “feel-good” hormone that promotes pair bonding. Chemically, your little one can’t help falling in love with you.
Your baby is not the only one who benefits from putting skin in the game…Dad does too. With baby on his chest, Dad’s oxytocin production is higher which leads to lower testosterone levels. This hormonal shift leaves Dad relaxed, more in-tune with his child, and better able to reciprocate with sensitive and affectionate responses.
With skin to skin contact, Dads are more interactive with their newborns, and feel more secure in their parenting skills. Perhaps this is why dads report a stronger bond long term if they’ve held baby skin to skin. And as your child gets older, regular skin-to-skin contact can evolve. Morning cuddles with your toddler, back rubs before bed and even the occasional foot or neck massage while watching movies together at home will continue to foster the father-child bond. A strong and close connection will serve as an important foundation throughout both of your lives.