It’s a familiar image: a mother’s eyes flooding with happy tears as she looks down at her perfect newborn for the very first time. She holds her child against her skin in a warm embrace, and while the infant is visibly howling, its small face scrunched into an adorable knot, it’s clear that this is a precious moment. For some, this is the only version of skin-to-skin that comes to mind, but these photos of fathers holding their babies skin-to-skin show the incredibly unique connection that dads can also foster through touch.
Despite the traditional mental image, holding babies skin-to-skin has enormous benefits whether done by moms or dads, birth or non-birth parents, partners or single parents. When a newborn is held against the skin of their caregiver, they become happier, are kept warm, have better brain development, and develop more stable breathing and heart rates. Skin-to-skin contact with any caregiver can also help calm the baby down, which means less crying and (yes!) more sleep for both parties. But physical health aside, the best part about guardians holding their children close is the bond that is formed as a result. One that encourages confidence, love, and protectiveness... all of which can be captured beautifully on camera.
To see the skin-to-skin magic for yourself, take a look at these photos, many of which were submitted to the 2019 Birth Becomes Her Photo Contest, and let that familiar image start to evolve. No matter what the specifics of the relationship, the connection between these dads and their children proves that skin-to-skin is for everyone.
1. A Soft Embrace
This picture, taken by Sommessa Photography, perfectly captures a dad's first few moments with his child. The gentleness in his hold shows the protectiveness that skin-to-skin helps strengthen.
2. Royal Family
The pride in this father's face is well deserved, as his new "prince" takes a much needed nap on his chest. This photo from @toinekruze shows the immense trust that is already beginning to develop between the two.
3. Safe And Sound
Here, a dad has a rare moment in which his child is completely at ease. His close embrace, as captured by Cincy Birth Stories, lets his child know that they're completely safe and secure.
4. Two's A Party
Nick and Shawn prove that there's no one way to do skin-to-skin. This is the perfect approach to help their amazing twins, Nora and Smith, become accustomed to the world around them.
4. First Moments
The joy in this picture, taken by Nicole Streeter Photography, is undeniable. These first few moments together are ones that this family will always look back on.
5. Finding Comfort
There's that scrunched-up face every parent knows and loves. Don't worry though, the skin-to-skin contact captured by ArtShaped Photography and Birth Services is sure to help this baby relax.
6. Hold On Tight
The emotion that comes with holding your baby for the very first time is captured beautifully by Ashley Grimes Photography. If a mother is still in a lot of pain immediately after birth, her partner can definitely help provide immediate skin-to-skin contact, like the one in this photo.
7. Reaching Out
It's tough to tell what's more touching in this scene captured by Pink Moon Birth Photography: the dad holding his newborn or his baby grabbing for his beard.
8. Happy Tears
Happiness isn't a big enough word to describe the emotion found in this moving image by Ashley Short Photography. It's a feeling that is truly larger than life, rivaled only by the look of complete contentment on the newborn's face as they cuddle up to dad.
9. Close For Comfort
This father's expression, captured by Hello Bébé Full Spectrum Birth Services, reads protective, but his hand reveals gentleness. This is the kind of wonderful dichotomy that skin-to-skin contact helps to bring out.
10. Welcome Party
Maggie Shackelford Photography and Doula Services shows that a little skin-to-skin time with dad was all this baby needed to feel comfortable enough to rest. Another great example of how dads can help out after a difficult labor.
11. Seeing Double
After a home birth, this couple, photographed by Melissa Cate Photography, welcomed adorable twins. This meant that each parent got a chance to hold a child and both babies got to reap the benefits of immediate skin-to-skin without overburdening their mother.
12. Quiet Admiration
Once the dust settles after birth, sometimes it's nice to take a step back and focus on bonding with the newborn. Stephanie Sauer Pasternak's photo (@bergendoula) shows a dad doing just that.
13. Getting Closer
The sweet hold shown here by Empowered Birthing, perfectly depicts the tender bond that is formed in a baby's first moments with their parent.
14. Nice To Meet You
This dad, shot by Ursula Cardenas Fotogragie, seems to be in disbelief as he holds his child for the first time. Those little feet in the crook of his arm are too precious.
15. Beanie Baby
Tula Q Photography shows a newborn baby finally getting cozy with their dad. This child can't help but to get some shut-eye, and with a blanket and hat like that, it'd be hard not to.
16. Getting To Know Each Other
This incredible shot by Elizabeth Weinstein shows a dad looking at his child with so much warmth and awe. It's a perfect example of how skin-to-skin can melt the heart of any caregiver, fostering feelings of love and compassion that are unparalleled.
17. Starry Eyed
The look this baby gives their dad in Mosaic Birth Stories' photo is too sweet. After a home birth like this, giving another caregiver some time alone with the baby is a great way to pass the time while the birth parent recovers.
18. Up Close And Personal
This photo by Lauren + Doughlas captures such a strong bond between a father and his child. The skin-to-skin contact shown is also a great way to further this connection and let the baby know that this person will protect them at all costs.
19. Sit Back And Relax
The serenity in this shot by Jen Pierce Photography reveals how calming skin-to-skin can be for both parties. It also confirms that anyone can be a pro at it if they're willing to try.
20. Hanging Out
This photo from Fine Art Newborns By Chelsea perfectly captures the deep emotional relationship that is formed between a parent and their child through skin-to-skin. The way this dad looks at his child shows just how special these intimate moments are.
While birth mothers are undeniably among the strongest people on the planet, it's important to note that they're not the only ones who can do things like skin-to-skin. Families are evolving and parenting roles are following suit in order to properly balance the emotional work required to raise children. No matter what a family looks like, anyone can give care and compassion to their child. If taking on different responsibilities seems daunting though, have no fear! Skin-to-skin is a great place to start.