Becoming a mum entails so many changes, especially to our bodies – but what about when a man becomes a dad?
We’ve spotted many discussions and studies about this, and we just HAD to share as we found it so fascinating, especially as it’s something we scarcely even consider when becoming parents. The physical changes women go through are well publicised, but not so much for men.
How does a man’s body change when he becomes a daddy?
As well as the obvious changes that both mum’s and dad’s may experience – it’s pretty common for us to gain a few extra pounds during those sleepless nights where food is fast, easy and filling, and snacks help to power us through, there are some more subtle inner changes going on with our brains and our hormones; both mummies and daddies! It’s very easy to assume that, because the mum carries the baby and goes through childbirth, she’d be the only one to experience these changes, but incredibly it seems that a new daddy also goes through some similar changes!
Here’s the science…
Dad’s brain ‘reshapes’ to look more like mums!
In this study, researchers looked at the brain of 89 new parents as they watched some videos, some of which portraying their own children. They included 3 groups; mums who are the primary caregiver, daddies who are joint caregiver, and gay daddies with no female parent. All three groups showed activation of parts of the brain that are involved in social understanding and emotions, indicating that a dad’s brain adapts to take on similar patterns of emotional and cognitive engagement that were previously associated with mummies.
Hormones, hormones, everywhere…
We all know just how much of a hormonal rollercoaster new motherhood is, but new fatherhood is just as emotional!
Research has shown that new fathers will experience an increase in the hormones estrogen, glucocorticoids, prolactin and oxytocin, much like a new mum – researchers say that contact with mum and baby induces this as a biological way of promoting caring, nurturing and protecting of the new family unit. Researchers also found that the more affectionate a dad is, the higher is oxytoxin levels tend to be – makes sense!
Research has also shown that new daddies may experience testosterone changes – however, studies on this are still conflicted with no clear answer, so watch this space!
Research has also shown that oxytocin levels will rise in a new dad, which is a biological mechanism to induce ‘childcare behaviour’, and studies showed that men who were given a sniff of oxytocin made daddies more engaged with their children when playing and their children were in turn more responsive to their daddy. They also tended to show less hostility towards crying children than those given a placebo.
New Neurons Develop
When a man becomes a daddy, his brain responds by rapidly developing new neurons – bonus!
Scientists think that this is due to the ‘environmental enrichment’ a new baby brings, and helps a new daddy to learn the ropes of fatherhood quickly. We’re sure the daddy in your life will be pleased to know his brain actually grew the day he became a father!
New instincts (similar to mums) form…
Dads are sensitive to their new baby’s cries and sounds too! A recent study indicates that new dads are just as good at identifying their newborns own distinct cry as their mummy. During research, it was found that both mummies and daddies were correct on average 90% of the time.
So, there we have it – mummies aren’t the only parent to experience significant changes, it’s amazing how nature adapts both parents to help them nurture their precious babies!
Wow! Isn’t that fascinating?! Share with the daddy in your life as we’re sure he’ll love to learn more.
Love from Katie & Team BBY. Xx