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Skin-to-skin Care from a Dad's Perspective

November 2017

Just a note: I will be using fathers in this post since that is who was included in this study. Partners, I'm sure, would voice the same results in being included in their baby's care.

Research shows, many times over, that the use of skin-to-skin care (SSC) between the premature infant and his/her mother is vital to the physical health of the newborn and in increasing maternal milk supply. However, little research has been done for the fathers of premature infants in providing SSC.

baby hand

Although this study is small (N=20) the results are impactful. Olsson, Eriksson, and Anderzen-Carlsson (2017) designed an interview to use with 20 fathers whose premature infants were provided SSC by the fathers. Five topics were addressed in the interview: the fathers' feelings about and experiences of using SSC; the physical environment in the NICU; staff attitudes; and whether SSC had any impact on the relationship with their partner and other children in the family.

Participating fathers ranged in age from 23 to 45 years and the infants were born between 25 +0 and 30 +1 weeks. The fathers described having had SSC with their infants between 4 and 80 times prior to the interview and six infants had older siblings at home.

"Almost all of the fathers started the interviews with comments about the heart-warming experience of being skin-to-skin with their infant. A feeling of gratitude was expressed, as being relieved that the infant seemed to be doing well and an appreciation of being able to be skin-to-skin with him/her. For example, a sense of happiness during SSC was described by a father of twins, who recounted a situation where he was skin-to-skin with his daughter at the same time as his wife held their son: '...I looked at my son and then my daughter and then my wife and I just felt, damn I'm so happy'' (p e3).

During the earliest experiences of SSC with their babies, the fathers used words such as "powerful, strong, fantastic, wonderful, amazing, and incredible" regarding their feelings of the SSC experience. Many described the warmth of physical and emotional feelings and that their love for the baby was strengthened by SSC. One father stated, "...everything I was worried about disappeared as soon as I had him (on my chest)" (p e4).

In the conclusion of this article, the authors recommended that fathers not be seen as just a substitute for mothers in the SSC experience, but as a more equal partner in parenting. "...perhaps the time has come to give fathers a bigger role in the skin-to-skin care of the premature infant" (p e9).

You can download the entire article at ScienceDirect with a free account. I hope it will warm your heart as much as it did mine!


Kathy Parkes, MSN-Ed, BSPsy, RN, IBCLC, RLC, FILCA

Professional Development Educator

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