Fathers play a critical role in the birthing process in supporting both the mother and the child. Birth is an important window for bonding with the child in ways that fathers describe as “profound” and “life-changing.”
Marshall Klaus and John Kennell (1976) found that it was very important for the father to be present for the birth and be an active participant in it. In follow-up studies, they found fathers who were present at the birth were less likely to abuse that child. Klaus and Kennell believe that the optimal human-bonding period is the first 12 to 36 hours after birth.
During this perinatal period, it is best if mother and father spend time in bed together holding the baby, passing the baby back and forth between them so there is extensive skin-to-skin contact between the parents and the child. Once the child has nursed, then the baby should be passed to the father and put on his chest.
Few adults experienced this kind of father-bonding during their birth. If you were born in a hospital, you were probably whisked away to the nursery after only minimal contact with your mother and with little or no contact with your father for many hours, even days. If there were any birth complications, you may have been separated from your mother for hours or days.
If this is happened you to, you likely carry birth imprints of this loss of emotional synchrony with your mother and father at your birth in ways that impact the amount of intimacy you are able to experience in your adult relationships. Pre- and perinatal research is just discovering the immense power of these very early experiences in creating relational templates that unconsciously direct an individual’s life.