“I don’t remember reaching down, or lowering my gown, but suddenly she was there – lying on my chest”

“Directly after birth, if no immediate medical attention is required, your baby will be placed on your chest,” the midwife explained.

“You will be left to have skin-to-skin time with your baby. This is very important – the skin-to-skin contact will help you to bond, it will allow your baby to learn your smell, and it will help to facilitate breastfeeding.”

Ten couples sat in a semi-circle on an assortment of chairs, Swiss Balls and beanbags; listening intently.

After two full days of learning about relaxation and breathing techniques, pain relief options and birthing positions, the Antenatal Class had finally reached the moment that we had all been waiting for: Meeting our babies.

I couldn’t wait. After so many months of feeling each flutter, twist and stretch, in just a few short weeks she would be born. I would finally be able to hold her. Feel her skin. Look into her eyes.

Although I was excited, the strong emphasis on skin-to-skin contact did cause some anxiety. What if something went wrong? What if my baby is rushed to intensive care, or something is wrong with me, and we miss out on this time together? If we missed that opportunity to bond, would it impact our future relationship?

Adding to my anxiety was the theory that, in the first 24 hours after birth, only parents should hold the baby.

Some close friends of ours had introduced their son with ‘look but don’t touch’ hospital visits. In the first 24 hours, their baby was snugly wrapped and family members were invited to gaze down into the bassinet and observe his tiny features. They feared that passing the baby around too many arms too early would confuse the bonding process.

But my mother was going to be in our delivery room. After enduring the entire labour with us, how could I deny her a hold? If early contact is so important for bonding, shouldn’t grandparents (at least) also be given this opportunity?

When my daughter was finally born, the obstetrician asked if I’d like to pick my baby up. I didn’t hesitate. I don’t remember reaching down, or lowering my gown, but suddenly she was there – lying on my chest, looking up at me with those big doe eyes. She was quiet, contemplative, and I cried because she was so beautiful.

All the pain of labour quickly dissipated and I was gifted this wonderful moment with my child. After a time – I have no idea how long – my baby was wrapped in hospital blankets and passed to her Dad, and then he handed her over to Grandma.

But not all women have such positive experiences.

Swedish researchers reviewed 29 research papers from nine countries, collating the skin-to-skin – or ‘Kangaroo Mother Care’ – experiences of more than 500 parents.

The experiences, published in the International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-being, included skin-to-skin contact in birthing suites immediately after birth, as well as in hospital wards and Neonatal Intensive Care Units (NICU) over subsequent days and weeks.

In the studies, parents described skin-to-skin contact as:

  • A heart-warming experience: Wonderful and joyful, with feelings of instant and overwhelming love.
  • Feeling valued: Mothers of premature babies felt they had an important role to play in their infant’s recovery. They also felt a sense of hope that everything would be okay.
  • A learning experience: It taught parents how to hold and correctly handle the baby and boosted their confidence in being able to leave the hospital.
  • Intimate togetherness: When parents took turns holding the baby it strengthened their sense of being a family. Parents felt closer to their infant and it created a special bond.
  • An energy-draining experience: Parents felt reported feeling afraid of suffocating or hurting their baby, and worried that the extended periods of time spent with their newborn was taking them away from other children or family responsibilities.
  • Feeling pressured and exposed: Some mothers were not comfortable exposing their body in the hospital environment, but felt pressured to do so. Fathers felt they were being critically assessed and considered incompetent by hospital staff.

Despite my own positive skin-to-skin experience, I do identify with the women who felt drained, pressured, and even exposed.

In the time it takes to move from the delivery room to the postnatal ward, the focus shifts away from familial bonding. Rather than being an intimate moment for parent and child, skin-to-skin becomes a functional, obligatory means of establishing breastfeeding.

“Okay darl, take off your top, she needs to feel your skin,” the nurses would insist.

My baby’s need to be nourished was the paramount concern (and rightly so), but I couldn’t help but feel like an undignified dairy cow. My value reduced to the amount of colostrum that I could produce, as the lactation consultants poked, prodded, pinched at my teats.

The research echoed these feelings, with reports that mothers of full-term babies “reported unease at having to expose their body on the ward” and felt that “their autonomy were not respected.”

I wasn’t alone in my discomfort. As a man, without a role to play in the breastfeeding ritual, my partner felt that it would be inappropriate to expose his chest in hospital and avoided having skin-to-skin time with our baby. His feelings were not dissimilar to the fathers in the study, who felt “frustrated and helpless, as they could not interact with their infant.”

After arriving home from hospital, one of the first things that we did was lay our baby down on her Dad’s chest to sleep. Finally, he was given this opportunity to bond – and it was wonderful for him, too.

What are your experiences with skin-to-skin contact? SHARE with us in the comments below.

Main image source: Shutterstock

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  • I think we all need to do what ever it is we feel is best for us. Dont follow rules… just do what your able and what your heart tells you.


  • yeah that first “contact” is amazing and unforgettable


  • It was lovely when she was placed on my chest.


  • My son was shown to me immediately, but then quickly taken away for checks due to a little complication during delivery. He was back with me fairly quickly though, but only for a moment. I had a slight seizure and/or fainted whilst I was holding him and woke to my husband (lightly) slapping my face to wake me. Skin on skin wasn’t a priority for us at that time.


  • So wonderful that this happens now. I never experienced this skin to skin bonding moment with any of my babies and with one it was 6 months before we were allowed to pick her up and hold her even though her eyes begged you to pick her up. So glad new mothers get so much better care these days.


  • My daughter was 10 weeks early and delivered by emergency classical C-section. I didn’t get the change to see her after she was delivered as she was directly carried away checked and placed in an incubator. I remember I was so jealous at my husband who was able to follow the doctors and watch when she got checked, while I was stuck on the table and was stitched up. Hours later when I came very sick out the recovery I was able see see her and touch her with my finger through the incubator. It took another week before we could hold her, which was a very hard and long wait for us. My son was also delivered by a C-section but he was directly placed on my chest and I felt very blessed indeed


  • I can understand why it used to be so hard for Dads to bond with their babies. Back in the 1950s and prior, the Dads took the Mum to hospital and were sent home, or they waited in the waiting room. The Mums had no support which only served to make them more anxious and often delivery so much harder. Now Mums go to hospital and if everything appears to be OK sometimes they are sent home for awhile and go back to hospital later. The Dads stay with the Mums and support them the whole time…….and later is able to bond with their baby.


  • I had a c section, as soon as I was stictched up and in recovery, our daughter was placed on my chest. I’ll never forget that moment


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