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Why Dads are Important to New Born Babies.
- Gaynor Humphrey
No one who saw Prince Harry’s delight at the safe arrival of his baby son could doubt his deep joy and excitement at becoming a father, and its clear that he is going to be a hands-on Dad.
The role of Dads has come a long way in recent years. Once upon a time the role of the Father was to be the disciplinarian whilst providing food and shelter for his family. The “Wait until your Father Comes Home” era when the main interaction children had with their fathers was to be told off!
Luckily this attitude has changed significantly spearheaded by celebrity dads such as David Beckham and Jamie Oliver who have taken a lot more hands on and affectionate parenting role.
But even now the main advice given to fathers of newborn babies is all about lending a hand and supporting the mother. It has certainly been proved that breastfeeding is more successful when the mother has a supportive partner, but there is no reason why being a dad should be confined to providing support to the mother. More and more dads are being encouraged to be involved in their new born baby’s lives and have more of a team approach to the parenting of tiny babies and there is science behind this change in attitudes.
It has been shown that during pregnancy men experience a change in hormonal levels which promote more caring emotions as natures prepares for lads to become dads. And a 2010 study showed that dads have increased levels of oxytocin during the first weeks of their babies' lives, this is the “love hormone” which increases feelings of bonding among families. These hormone levels return to normal in the months following the baby’s birth which is when traditionally men take a back seat in the parenting of babies.
However a growing amount of research shows that the sooner fathers starting bonding with their baby, the better it is for the family.
Many men still don’t get involved until their babies are toddlers, either because work issues mean they simply don’t get the chance to spend time with their babies, or because they just don’t know what to do with babies when they are so tiny.
But there are distinct benefits for Dads to get involved with their children from day one. It boosts the physical and mental development of children significantly and it has also been proved that hands-on fathers suffer from less stress.
No one can be prepared for those first precious days but the sooner a father gets involved with practical tasks such as bathing and nappy changes the better. Not only does this practical help give the mother much needed time to sleep and recover but they give dads a chance for one on one time with their baby.
The impact on a child’s life of having an involved father are huge. Psychology Today quotes "even from birth, children who have an involved father are more likely to be emotionally secure, be confident to explore their surroundings, and, as they grow older, have better social connections”, and Save the Children found that a father’s choices – health or unhealthy - could have a direct impact on those of their children.
Children with involved fathers have better social skills when they reach nursery and do better in exams at 16 and the closeness of the father-child relationship is a crucial predictor of long-term mental health. A study by the California State University showed that fathers play a hugely important role in the mental health of their children. Fathers have a very different way of parenting and interacting with their babies, they are more “rough and tumble” and encourage more risk-taking behaviour. They also use a very different words when talking to their babies, some times more complicated and less baby talk, and this helps to broaden the child's vocabulary.
At Best Years we are totally behind the growing importance of fathers in parenting which is why we have recently partnered with Dadsnet and got involved with the Dadsnet awards, where products are tested and judged by Dads. We were very proud to win 1 x Bronze, 2 x Silver and a fantastic Gold award for our Dinosaur toys.