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Lisa Williams reports on one of the most heart-melting of moments

Fathers can do skin-to-skin too. We report on the rise of dads doing kangaroo care...

If anything is emblematic of modern fatherhood, you can’t get better than a photo – often taken on a mobile – of a blissful-looking dad, shirt unbuttoned, cradling against his chest an equally blissful-looking newborn.

It’s the Instagram-generation version of the Athena poster pinned to many bedroom walls in the early Nineties. No, not the one of the flashing tennis player, but the other one: of the strapping male model holding a baby, contrasting big man with small baby, strength with fragility, and rugged with peachy-soft.

'The skin-to-skin moment is the first time they connect physically with the baby.'

For many fathers, the skin-to-skin moment is the first time they connect physically with the baby. While the mother has felt every kick, twinge and somersault, fathers can be short-changed as contrary babies stop in their tracks the moment dad’s hand hovers anywhere near the bump.

They will meet their baby the moment she is delivered, but the true bonding moment often comes when, encouraged by their NCT teachers and a boiling hot maternity ward, they whip open their shirt and hold their baby close, allowing the baby to acquaint herself with her father’s scent and hear the comforting rhythm of his heartbeat. The mother, meanwhile, can rest, recover or hit WhatsApp.

The virtues of mothers doing skin-to-skin are well-documented. Study after study after study show that, among other benefits, it can promote and sustain breastfeeding, and help the baby maintain a healthy temperature. But there has also been research into the effects of fathers doing skin-to-skin too. One report found that, out of a group of babies whose mothers were not able to do skin-to-skin straight after birth, those who could be held skin-to-skin by their fathers cried less and slept more than the babies who were next to their fathers but in a cot.  

Fascinating stuff. It’s why the NCT is big on both mothers and fathers doing skin-to-skin, and the charity can be credited partly with its growing popularity. Ante-natal teachers will extoll its virtues to their groups, and the organisation’s website has a page devoted to guiding fathers through the stages of labour where skin-to-skin, of course, gets a mention. Some teachers and health professionals will also encourage fathers to cut the umbilical cord, if they fancy it, but skin-to-skin is an easier bonding method for the faint-hearted.

And it makes for a beautiful photo too.

Ben and Will

Ben arrived six weeks and one day early, so spent his first three weeks in the neonatal unit. It was very special for Will and his wife Jo to be able to care for Ben in this way in the early days, and for Will to be able to take over while Jo was attached to a breast pump. Will says, ‘It was a lovely way to bond with Ben, especially given that he was so small and weak when he was born. It meant that I could interact with him without tiring him out and that I could feel close to him.’

Willow and Henry:

'Skin-to-skin for me was all about creating a bond as a father,' says Henry. 'For mother and baby it feels like that bond has existed forever. As a man and father, in those first moments you could be anybody to your baby so it felt important to establish who I was to her.'

Julian and Kaushik

It was too hectic in hospital for Kaushik to do skin-to-skin with little Julian but, once they were home and things were calmer, it happened naturally. He sometimes did it with his shirt off, but found it was also possible by unzipping his jumper and undoing his shirt buttons. He says, ‘We had some of our most precious times cuddling Julian skin-to-skin.’

Dylan and Simon

Simon had whipped his shirt off within minutes of Dylan being born. ‘It was a subject our NCT tutor came back to a lot throughout the course and it was always talked about as something both parents should do,’ says Simon. His wife Sara says, ‘Simon is probably the most content person I’ve ever met, but that first time he held Dylan skin-to-skin was the happiest I’ve seen him.’ Nearly two years later, they’re still doing skin-to-skin: they often fall asleep together, t-shirts off and snoring.

Lachlan and Nick

Little Lachlan was breech, so he was born by c-section, and both parents did skin-to-skin with him immediately. Nick, who first heard about it from watching One Born Every Minute, says it was a big moment for him: ‘Being pregnant is obviously not something I can physically experience and the birth was over so quickly, so I guess this was the first time throughout the whole nine months that I could take the time to ponder the fact that I was now a dad and this was my son.’ It carried on throughout his paternity leave. ‘Breastfeeding was a bit difficult at the start so, during my paternity leave period, the three of us would often get into bed together for an hour or so and be skin-to-skin to really get the oxytocin flowing.’

Emily and Dom

Emily's mother Gemma was scooted into theatre the moment her big sister Gabriella was born, so her first skin-to-skin contact was with her dad. When Emily came along, it was natural to do the same. Gemma says, 'I can't express in words the pride and the happiness I felt seeing the two people I loved the most in the world sharing such a special moment, meeting each other for the first time, laying eyes on each other for the first time and creating this amazing bond.'

Frances and Frank

Little Frances was born four months early and her beloved papa couldn't hold her until she was five weeks old. She is doing really well now at almost nine weeks old but still has seven weeks until her due date. Her mother Aly says, ‘Frances is named after her daddy and is already showing signs of being a daddy's girl. She loves to lie tucked into his t-shirt, where she always falls fast asleep within minutes.’

:: Would you like to share a photo and story of you doing skin-to-skin with your baby? If so, please email us.






Dadah to one
Dang! - I forgot to put my photographer in my hospital bag!!! These images are way too good... there must be some multi talented mid-wives out there!!
Lisa Tantrum
Mobile phones are enough; the subject is so good it doesn't need the pro kit!