Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is known for being a total badass onscreen, which may be in part why a photo he shared on Monday that showcases a soft, cuddly side of the actor is getting so much attention. In the pic, Johnson is shirtless and cradling his newborn daughter, who he recently welcomed with girlfriend Lauren Hashian.
“Skin to skin. Our mana,” he captioned the sweet shot on Instagram. “Blessed and proud to bring another strong girl into this world. Tiana Gia Johnson came into this world like a force of nature.” Johnson then talked about fatherhood in the most amazing way. “I was raised and surrounded by strong, loving women all my life, but after participating in baby Tia’s delivery, it’s hard to express the new level of love, respect and admiration I have for @laurenhashianofficial and all mamas and women out there,” he wrote.
“Word to the wise gentlemen, it’s critical to be by your lady’s head when she’s delivering, being as supportive as you can.. holding hands, holding legs, whatever you can do,” he continued in the caption. “But, if you really want to understand the single most powerful and primal moment life will ever offer – watch your child being born. Its a life changer and the respect and admiration you have for a woman, will forever be boundless.”
Being present for the birth of your child is obviously an indescribable experience. And new parents are often encouraged to spend time physically holding onto their newborns, as Johnson did, after the birth for many reasons. The specific way he can be seen cuddling against his newborn sans shirt is a practice that some health experts recommend.
The skin-to-skin practice was originally developed in Colombia as an alternative method to incubator care. The practice was a way to keep premature babies warm so that they could be released from overcrowded hospitals, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Moms were asked to hold their baby (in a diaper) beneath their clothes, skin-to-skin, snuggled between their breasts.
But the possible benefits go beyond simply keeping the baby warm. The practice allows the parent and baby to bond on a very primal, physical level, Jessica A. Shepherd, an ob/gyn at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas, tells SELF. What’s more, stabilizing the baby’s body temperature by putting the newborn directly on an adult’s skin allows the child to put its energy into breastfeeding, which can help the baby sleep more and cry less, Melissa Goist, M.D., an ob/gyn at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, tells SELF. Babies who do skin-to-skin often breastfeed better and continue to nurse an average of six weeks longer than those who don’t do skin-to-skin, the Cleveland Clinic says.
And although skin-to-skin contact was traditionally recommended for the people giving birth, partners can also take part in it. “For the partner, it’s equally great and helps form an early bond,” Taraneh Shirazian, M.D., an ob/gyn with NYU Langone Health, tells SELF.
This can be especially useful in cases where a baby is born via C-section: The mom may hold the baby for a moment, but the partner will likely do skin-to-skin with the baby until after the mom gets stitches and is able to take over, Dr. Shepherd says.