Bonding with your newborn is a topic that has been researched and discussed for ages. New ways to bond are pondered, old ways are revisited, but in general Dads seem to be left out of the conversation. Traditionally Dads would head out to work and take care of the family financially while Mums reared the children. This often lead to Dads being left out when it came to the primary care giving and bonding of their babies. Even in today’s world where this tradition has long since become outdated, many women work away from the home, yet most are still responsible for the primary care and therefore tend to get more time to bond with their new baby. So do babies need bonding with their Dads? Do Dads need to bond with their babies? Let’s take a look at some of the misconceptions surrounding this topic as there are many.
We all know women experience a range of hormones during pregnancy and post birth that is thought to promote the maternal instinct and enhance the bond with their baby. But did you know men release them too? Studies show that a Dads interaction with his baby also produces a rush of oxytocin (the love hormone), prolactin (a hormone released in breastfeeding women), vasopressin (a hormone linked to bonding and maternal stress response as well as lower levels of aggression promoting testosterone) so essentially very similar hormonal releases a woman experiences. Biologically speaking this makes the Dad just as capable of experiencing the same feelings as the Mum. In fact, the more time the Dad spends with the baby the more oxytocin is released further enhancing their bond.
With the rise in Dads who stay home or take on a caregiver role, many studies have been done to determine the outcome on children, if any. Studies have shown that Dads who interact with their children on a daily basis boost their child’s physical and mental development significantly more than those who don’t contribute. Interaction with their Dad is vital. Generally, men and women interact with their children differently. Fathers tend to interact and play with their children in more physical ways, take more risks, encourage independence and promote more achievement-based activities. Whereas a Mum may be more nurturing and protective. The balance of the two gives the child a wider range of influence and benefits them in many ways. What’s more, children who spend more time with their Dads tend to be more confident, independent, as well as interact better with other children more effortlessly.
This couldn’t be more false, however, most Dads do tend to follow a different timeline than women. In a recent study mapping the effect of oxytocin patterns on the brain after having a child, women tend to feel the effects of the oxytocin right away. However, most men didn’t feel the full effects until the child reached about 4 months of age. This did occur earlier in Dads that spent more time with their child as an infant. It’s the idea that proximity breeds parenting. The more interaction on daily basis, the quicker the bond developed. Not only does Dad spending more time with bubs get his hormones going, it also increases his confidence in caring for the infant. Hands on Dads experience lower levels of stress when it comes to parenting. The “handing over” of duties or the equal division of child-rearing duties results in the Dad feeling more confident in his abilities as a father. Exposure to the child’s many moods, sounds, cries and body language make him more comfortable deciphering what his child is communicating therefore further increasing his confidence in his ability to deal with them. This also allows the child to equally rely on both parents and feel confident in the fact that either can meet their needs, comfort them and provide much-needed love.
Urban Hatch offers seminars and workshops for companies who wish to support their employees during pregnancy, postpartum and the transition back to work – equally as beneficial for Dads as Mums.