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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Love Hormones

The rise and fall of hormones in women who have just given birth as they continue to interact with their infant as it grows has been well documented.  But what about those same hormones in dads?

A new study, just released, shows that fathers also experience a rise in the love hormone as they interact with their child.  It also shows a correlation between the mother's hormone level and the father's.  If a woman is experiencing PPD, the father's hormone level tends to stay low as well, which may explain some of the depression dads can feel after their partner gives birth to a baby.

This study was done only on what Americans would call "the traditional family," and as I continue to talk about the results, you'll see that there is no way to broaden these findings to include all families.  I can only hope there are several other studies in the offing right now that study the hormone levels of adoptive families, gay couples, and others who would not fit into this very slim mold.

Researchers say that the hormone, oxytocin, rises in dads when they are teaching babies - pulling them up to sit, showing them how to see the world around them, playing with them.  Mothers experience a hormone boost when they gently handle babies - comfort them and caress them.  All of which, they say, may explain why children tend to look for dad when they want a happy playmate, and to seek out mom when they're feeling bad and need reassurance.

In my opinion, this is a very preliminary study, full of holes and vagueness, but one important thing its publication can perhaps do is encourage fathers to be a part of their children's lives as they grow.  Clearly there is room in a child's heart for every adult looking to give him love, and no adult should feel tied to any "traditional" duty or feeling. 

As we continue to progress as a society, men as a group are slowly coming off of that 'manly' image they have felt, throughout history, the need to portray.

The point of this entry is - man, woman, mother, father - the words don't mean anything.  You can be yourself.  You intuitively know how to love your child, and you'll know if something isn't quite right.  You'll know if your feelings of sadness are too much.  Don't second guess.  Within the ever-complicated politics of family life there is room for everyone and for every feeling.

Your baby will love you from day one.  And we don't need a study for that.  Your baby will love you whether or not you fit into the slim mold of test subjects for this particular study.  Your baby will love you whether you are a mother or a father.  Your baby will love you whether you play with him or cuddle him.  Your baby will love you.

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