Why dads should practice skin-to-skin contact with their babies

Holding your newborn against your chest can help to reduce stress and build a lasting bond

As a new dad, you may feel overwhelmed and unsure of how to bond with your newborn baby. One simple way to establish a strong connection is through skin-to-skin contact, also known as “kangaroo care.” This practice involves holding your baby against your bare chest and has been shown to provide numerous benefits for both the infant and parent, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

While most research has focused on the benefits for mothers, recent studies highlight the significant positive effects kangaroo care can have on new fathers and other family members, the Conversation reported. A 2022 study measuring cortisol (a stress hormone) levels and blood pressure found that fathers who held their baby skin to skin for the first time experienced a notable decrease in physiological stress responses. This calming effect not only improved the father’s well-being but also created a more peaceful environment for the baby.

Moreover, skin-to-skin contact can enhance the father-infant bond and promote positive infant care behaviors. A 2018 study conducted in Taiwan revealed that fathers who engaged in kangaroo care with their newborns exhibited increased exploring, talking, touching and caring behaviors. This early interaction can lay the foundation for a strong and nurturing relationship between father and child.

In a neonatal intensive care unit setting, where babies may require extra medical attention, kangaroo care can be especially beneficial for caregivers, the Cleveland Clinic reported. A 2022 Australian study found skin-to-skin contact helped fathers connect and bond with their babies in the NICU, boosting their confidence and self-esteem.

As one father in the study shared: “I think after all the stress, when I have skin-to-skin I can actually calm down a little bit. I sit down and relax, I can cuddle my child and it’s just a little bit of a happy place for me as well as him to calm down.”

Skin-to-skin contact is a simple way for fathers to bond with their babies and contribute to their overall development. So, new dads, don’t hesitate to embrace this opportunity to connect with your baby from the very beginning.