A study from Chile suggests that babies benefit from skin-to-skin care from their fathers after a Caesarean section. The researchers recommend father-baby skin-to-skin care when mothers and babies are separated after a Caesarean section. Separation from both parents after Caesarean sections is widespread, particularly in low- and middle-income countries.
The study measured body temperature, heart rate, peripheral oxygen saturation and wakefulness in the two hours after the birth of 95 babies. The babies were randomly assigned to three groups: being in a cot, being in their fathers’ arms and having skin-to-skin care from their fathers.
Heart rates were significantly higher at 45-90 minutes in the skin-to-skin group than in the cot or fathers’ arms groups. Heart rates showed greater stability over time. Wakefulness was also higher earlier on during the two hours. None of the measures were less favourable for the babies that had skin-to-skin care from their fathers.
Another earlier study by the research team in the same hospital in Chile showed that fathers who took care of their newborn babies during the first hours after the birth developed a better understanding of their babies’ first moments of life and became more engaged with them. Similarly, mothers felt the family benefitted from the fathers caring for their baby while they recovered from a Caesarean section.
Other research demonstrates the physiological benefits of mother-baby skin-to-skin care, for example higher body and skin temperature. Father-baby skin-to-skin contact has also been found to be associated with higher body temperature.
If there are benefits to father-baby skin-to-skin care, there is an argument that this should routinely be encouraged, not just when the mother and baby are separated. Based on previous studies the standard routine after birth should encourage the mother to have the first skin-to-skin contact with the newborn infant, as even a short separation will delay the first breastfeed. Then, after the first breastfeed the father /partner should always be supported to have skin-to-skin contact or in situations when the mother are not available.
Ayala A, Christensson K, Christensson E, Cavada G, Erlandsson K & Velandia M (2021), Newborn infants who received skin-to-skin contact with fathers after Caesarean sections showed stable physiological patterns, Acta Paediatrica
Header photo: Banc d’Imatges Infermeres. Creative Commons.