A father providing skin-to-skin contact with his newborn immediately after a cesarean birth offers the same calming and comforting benefits as a mother, according to a new study by Swedish researchers published in the journal Birth: Issues in Perinatal Care.
In a study of 29 father-infant pairs, full-term healthy newborns born by planned cesarean section were randomized to be placed either skin-to-skin on their father’s chest or beside their father in a crib. The infants in the skin-to-skin group stopped crying and were more calm compared to infants in the crib group. A father should therefore be regarded as the primary caregiver for the baby when a mother is not available immediately following a birth.
Early skin-to-skin contact between a mother and her baby may need to be limited for practical and medical safety reasons. “After births with complications, mothers are often not available to their babies for contact,” says principal author Kerstin Erlandsson. “Babies who do not have that contact take longer to settle and may lag in learning to breastfeed.” Erlandsson’s study shows that a father can soothe his newborn as effectively as a mother, and more effectively than if the baby is placed in a crib during the first two hours after birth.
Skin-to-skin contact between a father and baby also facilitates the newborn’s “pre-feeding behavior” of seeking the breast within the first hours of life. “The development of inborn nursing reflexes, such as mouth movements and rooting, is similar to that of infants that are skin-to-skin with the mother,” says Erlandsson. “This makes the child fully prepared for the first breastfeeding when being reunited with the mother.”
- Kerstin Erlandsson, Ann Dsilna, Ingegerd Fagerberg, Kyllike Christensson. Skin-to-Skin Care with the Father after Cesarean Birth and Its Effect on Newborn Crying and Prefeeding Behavior. Birth, 2007; 34 (2): 105 DOI: 10.1111/j.1523-536X.2007.00162.x
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