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Becoming a Father Changes You

Dad looking at child and laughing together

Dads agree. 3 in 4 dads we surveyed say their lives began when they became a dad.

  1. Cues for Caregiving
    We know moms’ hormone levels change during pregnancy. So do Dads’! Scientists say both parents experience a rise in the hormone prolactin around the time of a baby’s birth. Prolactin promotes child-caring behaviors in both parents.
  2. The Love Hormone
    Here’s something to smile about: bonding time with your baby activates the circuits in your brain that are also involved in falling in love. When a dad has skin-to-skin contact with his baby, he releases oxytocin (sometimes knowns as the love hormone). Babies’ oxytocin levels rise, too. (Skin-to-skin contact between moms and babies has the same effect.)
  3. Brain Rewards
    MRI images provide more evidence that men’s priorities change when they have kids. Brain scans of fathers and non-fathers showed that the reward-sensing region of dad’s brains lit up when they saw pictures of toddlers. Not so in the non-dads. Another study found that in the first four months of parenting, fathers showed increases in parts of the brain involved in parental motivation, including the hypothalamus and amygdala, among others.

Fatherhood is life-changing, for dads and for babies. As tiring as being a Dad is at times, all those moments add up to a lifetime of love and connection.

Dad holding infant son

References

Dads:

    • Gettler, L. T., McDade, T.W., Feranil, A.B., and Kuzawa, C.W. (2011) Longitudinal evidence that fatherhood decreases testosterone in human males.

www.pnas.org/content/108/39/16194

    • Gordon, I. Zagoory-Sharon, O. Leckman, J.F., and Feldman R. (2010) Oxytocin and the development of parenting in humans.

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20359699

    • Hashemian, F., Shafigh, F., and Roohi, E. (2016) Regulatory role of prolactin in paternal behavior in male parents: A narrative review.

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4970346/

    • Krisch, J.A. (2018) Dad Bods and Dad Brains: The New Science of Fatherhood.

www.fatherly.com/health-science/dad-psychology-science-fatherhood/

    • Law, S. (2010) Dads, Too, Get Hormone Boost While Caring for Baby.

https://www.livescience.com/10784-dads-hormone-boost-caring-baby.html

    • Pilyoung, K., Rio, P., Mayes, L.C., Feldman, R., Leckman, J.F., Swain, J.E. (2014) Neural Plasticity in Fathers of Human Infants.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4144350/

    • Samuel, L.R. (2014) Daddy Brain: Men’s brains change after they become fathers.

www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/psychology-yesterday/201410/daddy-brain

    • Vittner, D., McGrath, J., Robinson, J., Lawhon, G., Cusson, R. Eisenfeld, L., Walsh, S., Young E., and Cong, X.(2018) Increase in Oxytocin From Skin-to-Skin Contact Enhances Development of Parent-Infant Relationship.

www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29017336

Babies:

    • Krisch, J.A. (2019) The Science of Dad and the ‘Father Effect.’

www.fatherly.com/health-science/science-benefits-of-fatherhood-dads-father-effect/

    • Office on Child Abuse and Neglect, Children’s Bureau. (2006) The Importance of Fathers in the Healthy Development of Children.

www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/usermanuals/fatherhood/

    • Paquette, D. (2004) Theorizing the Father-Child Relationship: Mechanisms and Developmental Outcomes.

www.researchgate.net/publication/247701862

    • Yogman, M., Garfield, C. F. COMMITTEE ON PSYCHOSOCIAL ASPECTS OF CHILD AND FAMILY HEALTH. (2016) Fathers’ Roles in the Care and Development of Their Children: The Role of Pediatricians

pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/138/1/e20161128

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