Fathers and their feathers

My post has a funny title today because it is about fathers and the importance of doing skin to skin contact with their newborns. A very common myth among new parents and sometimes grandparents is that it is not the same when a father provides kangaroo care to his newborn infant. Then there are fathers who are willing to completely submerge themselves in the care of their child and I admire and respect them very much. Kangaroo care or skin to skin contact can be done by dads too. One question I got asked was what if the father has a hairy chest (hence the feathers in the title), the baby does not have a preference when it comes to kangaroo care. The choice between going in an incubator versus being on dad’s warm (and in some cases fuzzy) chest is easy. Fathers cannot give birth, but they can provide the same safety and comfort to their newborns by doing kangaroo father care. Research has shown infants who are put on their father’s chest skin to skin are able to regulate their temperature, heart rate and breathing very well.

Fathers have been shown to have a stronger bond with their infants by practicing skin to skin contact. Mothers who have given birth by C-section undergo a surgical procedure and take some time to recover from it. That is the time when a new baby should be on the father’s bare chest until the mother is ready to take charge. Fathers can also help by being the guardians and keeping watch on the mother and infant when the mother is providing kangaroo care but still recovering from the birth and is exhausted. The continuity of kangaroo care is of utmost importance not only for premature infants, but for any full term infant.

Here is just one story of a father and kangaroo care


A disclaimer: This post is NOT meant to suggest that incubators are hazardous. There is a place for incubators in special cases.

The infant-mother connection

The bond between an infant and mother is the purest form of unconditional love. A postpartum woman not only needs tender, loving care, but someone who is knowledgeable enough to give her the guidance she needs to care and connect with her infant. I distinctly remember the time after my daughter was born. I wish I could say it was purely magical, but it was not. First of all, I experienced a traumatic birth after being induced at 37 weeks due to a health condition. After the birth, I had my mother, father and my husband as my support network. I was so excited to meet my first-born that even after a traumatic birth I could not keep my eyes closed that night and kept looking at my daughter despite my mom telling me to rest. My husband on the other hand was fast asleep after a long 22 hour labor. The connection between me and my child had already been made.

Breastfeeding on the other hand was not simple at all. Hospital staff, nurses and doctors trying to check the well being and safety of me and my infant were all part of the medical care team, but I was not prepared for the time at home.

I thought I was prepared for childbirth, newborn care and breastfeeding by going to the childbirth education course for new parents. I wish I had known to be prepared for a tornado of hormones sweeping through my postpartum body. That tornado not only swept me off my feet, but changed my entire idea of mother-infant connection. I wish I had known the importance of skin to skin contact, the golden hour, and a whole list of other things. I cannot go back in time and change all that for myself, but I can certainly make a difference in the lives of new mothers and babies.  I want to help new mothers who have taken the classes like I did, but still feel lost in the stormy winds of the postpartum tornado, have a shelter in the form of knowledgeable help so they land on their feet and not feel lost like I did. Postpartum doulas, not only make the mother and infant connection stronger, but make it enjoyable. As I read a book called NEW PUBERTY by Louise Greenspan, MD and Julianna Deardorff, PhD, there is a quote that resonates with me the most. The little box in the book says ” The strength of the infant-mother bond can influence when a girl goes through puberty.”