My son was born by c-section a little over four years ago. He had low oxygen levels at birth, and was whisked off to the nursery after the birth. My husband went with him while my doula stayed behind with me.
Later I found out that when my husband got to the nursery he took off his shirt and held our son skin to (hairy) skin. The nurses, wonderful as they were, had to have been rolling their eyes when they saw this.
But it turns out that he was doing the best possible thing! A study released this week suggests that when fathers hold their babies skin to skin after the mother has a cesarean birth babies are calmed and show nursing reflexes.
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.
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.”
What this means is that when the mother can't hold the baby skin to skin right after the birth, dads should be ready to rip their shirts off. And from the description above they shouldn't be surprised if they try to latch on!