"It's like a drug!" New Dad, Aaron* exclaimed to me when I walked in the bedroom for my first postpartum check in. He was sitting shirtless on the bed, with his new babe, Roslyn on his chest. He shared to me "I feel so at peace." I explained that skin to skin can do that, and went on to spew some other evidenced based information that, as new, sleepless parents was likely tuned out. All he knew was he felt a strong sense of love and well-being.
The facts though, are clear. Skin to skin rewires the brain to help bond co-parents to their babes. According to an article on BellyBelly.com, author Maria Pyanov (CPD, CCE, ) shared: "When dad [co-parent] spends time skin to skin with his newborn hormonal changes occur including a rise in dopamine. Dopamine is responsible for many things including pleasure. A rise in dopamine plus the release of oxytocin means dad’s brain creates a positive association with close interaction with baby. It seems that skin to skin with dad can help dad’s natural parenting instincts to kick in." - See more here.
Of course, this is useful if mama or birthing person has a caesarian, or birthed multiples, but any time, for any baby. Starting the first few hours, and each day for 30 minutes at least. Co-parents voices are recognizable to newborns. Hearing you speak and your heartbeat, and feeling your warmth helps baby acclimatize to the outside world, and regulate their temperature. Co-parents brains are rewired, and babe has an easier transition. Long term, it is thought that Dads, or non-birthing co-parents who do skin to skin with their infant are more likely to have longer, more stable relationships with their child. Skin to skin is not just for mamas and birthing people after childbirth. Other benefits according to kangeroomothercare.com:
I'm sometimes asked "won't it be awkward or weird for me to have my shirt off in front of the nurses or midwives?" At which time I have a silent, but understanding giggle. They're not used to being the one subject to cervical checks, and being partially or totally nude in front of a room of well meaning supporters. Perspective is everything. I'm not going to say "It's the least you can do," everyone has their own comfort choices. I suggest a few things.
Tips for skin to skin for co-parents:
-Throw a button up shirt, or hoodie in the hospital bag. Change into that before doing skin to skin if you have time. If not, a hospital sheet will do as a shawl.
-Place a blanket over you and babe to give you a little more coverage.
-Pick a chair and nestle in with a pillow to help cover your sides if you're not comfortable.
-I prefer to be the one to pick a baby up from someone else's arms or a surface, versus having them placed in my arms. It usually goes more smoothly. Less smashy faces, or awkward tangled arms.
-Strip baby down to a diaper, and make sure their head is turned to the side to protect their airway.
-Snuggle that babe.
*All names have been changed to protect privacy of my clients.
Jackie Anger is a London, Ontario doula, a mama to an amazing toddler, a community advocate, and a lover of coffee.