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Health & Baby

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Father's Touch Soothes Newborns

After C-Section Birth, Newborns Find Dad's Skin Soothing When Mom Isn't Available
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

June 7, 2007 -- After cesarean section (C-section), newborns may cry less and sleep sooner if they rest on dad's chest instead of in a cot, a Swedish study shows.

"This valuable information can be used to encourage fathers to provide skin-to-skin care for their babies," write the researchers.

They add that fathers "should thus be seen as the primary caregiver for the infant during the separation of mother and baby."

The researchers included Kerstin Erlandsson, RNM, MNursSci, a graduate student in the reproductive and perinatal health division of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden.

They studied 29 Swedish men whose wives or girlfriends had just given birth by C-section to healthy babies.

Immediately after the babies were born, the infants got five to 10 minutes of skin-to-skin contact with their mothers. Then the babies spent the next two hours with their dads.

Father's Comfort

During those two hours, 14 fathers were asked to care for their babies, skin-to-skin, on their chest. The other 15 fathers were asked to sit in a chair next to a cot where their swaddled baby lay.

The dads sitting next to the cots were free to caress or sing to their baby. But they weren't allowed to pick up their baby.

An observer watched the fathers and children interact. A tape recorder also recorded the interactions.

The observer made notes every 15 minutes. Later, another researcher who didn't know which babies were being held listened to and analyzed the tapes.

The babies cradled on their fathers' chests cried less and fell asleep sooner than the babies in the cots.

Crying babies calmed down within 15 minutes of being held by their dads and became drowsy in an hour.

Babies in cots, on the other hand, took longer to be soothed and became drowsy in an hour and 50 minutes.

Skin-to-skin contact with the father is "optimal for the infant's well-being when the mother and infant are separated after a cesarean birth," the researchers conclude.

  • Will your partner be a nurturer, a fainter, or maybe just a couch potato during delivery? Talk about it on the Pregnancy: 3rd Trimester message board.

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