It’s becoming more common for fathers or other non-birthing parents to encourage their baby to lie on their chest as soon as they are born. This skin-toskin contact is commonly called “kangaroo-care” because it mimics how kangaroos give warmth and security to babies.
For decades, mothers have been encouraged and supported to care for kangaroos after giving birth. Many do this instinctively and it helps to connect with the baby and to encourage breastfeeding.
What evidence does this say about kangaroo care of other parents?
An increasing body of research
There is increasing evidence that kangaroo-care has benefits for both parents and babies.
One study measuring cortisol levels and blood pressure in fathers revealed that “fathers who hold their babies in skin-toskin contact for the first-time showed significant decreases in physiological stress responses.”
Another study, this time in Taiwan, involved fathers and newborn babies. It found benefits to bonding, attachment, and communication.
A paper I co-authored with the University of South Australia’s Qiuxia Dong found: “Studies reported several positive kangaroo care benefits for fathers such as reduced stress, promotion of paternal role and enhanced father–infant bond.”
Qiuxia Dong also conducted a study on fathers who had a baby at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Women’s and Children’s Hospital Adelaide.
Kangaroo care is a way for fathers to bond with their child in intensive care. This was a positive effect on the self-esteem of fathers and their confidence. According to one father, after all the stress, he found that if he was skin-toskin, he could calm down. I can just relax and cuddle my son and it makes me feel happy. Although I still have many things on my mind at all times, it’s time for me to just relax and let go a little.
Another said that she nuzzled a bit and got my scent, then fell asleep. It was wonderful. It was extremely comforting, I think for both her and me.”
One father stated, “Of course they can hear your heartbeat, and all that stuff. Of course warmth.” […] It’s about being close to your baby. That would be the best way to start a relationship.
The study also revealed that dads can find giving care to kangaroos time-consuming and challenging. It is difficult to manage multiple commitments, such as work and caring for other children.
Both parents should be involved
A study found that dads often feel like an observer on the fringes of life when a newborn arrives.
Encourage and educate all non-birthing fathers to give kangaroo to help. If the mother is unable to provide kangaroo care due to a cesarean, the father or other non-birthing parent can take over.
More research is required
It is important to conduct more research on these topics, especially in the area of fathers who come from diverse cultural backgrounds or are not birthing.
The research on kangaroo caring shows that both birthing and non-birthing fathers have good reasons to give kangaroo attention when a baby arrives. We found that in the neonatal intensive care unit environment, where it is often difficult, kangaroo can serve as a “silent language of love” for babies.
How dads can use “kangaroo care” to bond with their children
This article is republished under Creative Commons licence from The Conversation. The original article is available here.
What is the importance of newborn baby skin-toskin contact with fathers and other non-birthing mothers? What science has to say (2022, September 2).
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