Skin-to-skin contact between fathers and newborns improves their physiological parameters and wakefulness.

The common practice of separating infants from their parents after a caesarean section was put into question after a study showed that the skin-to-skin contact between the fathers and the newborn infants had significant advantages in achieving their stable physiological parameters and wakefulness. 


Motivated by the known benefits of an early mother-infant skin-to-skin contact, a randomised controlled study was conducted to determine if this could also be the case with fathers. The goal was to compare the effect of three caregiving models after a caesarean section. Additionally, some standards were set for situations in which a separation from the mother is inevitable.

Therefore, a randomised controlled trial was conducted at a public hospital in Chile between 2009 and 2012. The study comprised Chilean mothers who had an uncomplicated elective caesarean section and healthy neonates with a body temperature higher than 36.6° C. The 95 infants were randomly assigned to one of three groups (placing in a cot, fathers’ arms, or skin-to-skin contact with their father). Every 15 minutes, between 45 to 120 minutes after birth, the infant’s physiological variables were evaluated. These variables included the infants’ body temperature, oxygen saturation and heart rate, and the wakefulness.

The results showed no significant differences in the peripheral oxygen saturation and the body temperature of the infants between the three groups. However, the heart rate of the newborn babies and their wakefulness had some improvements in the skin-to-skin group. Another great finding was that the skin-to-skin group had no notable disadvantages in the physiological parameters, and it even helped with the establishment of a father-infant connection and the father’s engagement.

As the study demonstrated a more rapid achievement of stable physiological parameters and prolonged state of wakefulness in neonates after a caesarean section, the authors conclude that father-infant skin-to-skin practices should be encouraged. Moreover, skin-to-skin contact with fathers lead to early optimal self-regulation of temperature, as it is known to occur with mothers. Especially in countries where the separation from parents after birth is common, this could positively affect the babies’ health.

One of the limitations of this study was that the newborn infants were placed under a heater for the first 30 minutes after birth. This secured the babies’ temperature level before placing them in the cot or with their fathers. Nevertheless, temperatures remained stable until after the intervention period of 120 minutes was over.

Overall, the results suggest that skin-to-skin contact of fathers with their newborn children is beneficial and should be supported when mothers are not available themselves, for example after a caesarean section.

Paper available at: Wiley Online Library

Full list of authors: Ana Ayala, Kyllike Christensson, Eva Christensson, Gabriel Cavada, Kerstin Erlandsson, Marianne Velandia.

DIO: 10.1111/apa.15685