Dad brain is a fact, but it doesn’t make us stupid. Quite the opposite.
When I first became a dad I was, for a while, a bit clumsier and stupider than normal. I dropped things more (not the baby, thankfully), forgot the meaning of words, and forgot why I was saying something halfway through saying it.
It was a bit like being three drinks into a big night out, all the time. And without having had a drink.
When I mentioned this to a more experienced dad friend he nodded sagely. “That’s dad brain,” he said. “Your brain changes when you become a dad. You get dumber.”
In a way, what he said was true. I did get dumber, for a while. I got dumber because I was really tired all the time, and quite stressed, and a bit clueless about the whole parenthood thing. But changes in my brain didn’t cause any of it. This was purely circumstantial stupidity. As my son got older and I got more sleep and more experience as a dad, I stopped being such an idiot.
View this post on Instagram
When you become a mother your partner takes a backseat in your priorities. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in ourselves we forget they are adjusting to life as a new parent too! Check out my blog ‘baby brain’ in how my partners brain went to mush! Link in bio. ➡️mummysfortts.co.uk . . . . . . #parenting #babybrain #paternity #dadlife #daddysgirl #dadsquad #daddybrain #parentingfails #mumlife #mumbrain #instadads #instamums #instababies #blog #instablog #mummysbloggers #mumblog #mumbloggeruk
Dad brains and dad bods
Recently, I came across the phrase “dad brain” again. It was being compared to the dad bod, which is the name given to the extra pounds men pile on when a baby first arrives, due to having absolutely no time for exercise and no interest in eating healthily.
Dad bod is a real thing and so, it turns out, is dad brain. But it doesn’t make us stupider. It actually makes us more prepared to be dads.
The science of dad brain
“During his partner’s pregnancy, the male brain begins to release more of the hormone prolactin and to gradually suppress the hormone testosterone”
For years it was assumed that all the really serious biological changes that turn people into parents happened to mums, and dads just came along for the ride. We were obviously primed to care for our children a bit, but as most of the actual parenting would be done by mums, that was about it.
But now that researchers have started turning their scientific gaze on men, it turns out that the old assumption just isn’t true. New dads, and men approaching fatherhood, undergo a series of profound neurological changes that prepare them for the rigours of parenthood.
Here are the main ones:
- We recalibrate our hormonal soup. Or as Professor Louann Brizendine, author of The Male Brain, states: “During his partner’s pregnancy, the male brain begins to release more of the hormone prolactin and to gradually suppress the hormone testosterone.”
- Prolactin is the hormone that prepares new mothers to produce milk. In dads, studies suggest that it encourages interaction with the new baby. Specifically, the more prolactin they produce, the more dads encourage their babies to play and explore their surroundings.
- A simultaneous reduction in testosterone may also help new dads bond with their babies and settle into family life. In many animals, males are around for conception and little else. By lowering our testosterone levels before and after birth, nature has ensured that we don’t have quite the same biological desire to chase other females as many of our mammalian counterparts. A desire to play the field leaves the family vulnerable, so nature suppresses the hormone that drives our philandering ways.
- Many dads also present heightened levels of oxytocin, which is known to help mums bond with their newborn babies. It seems to work for dads too. The higher the oxytocin levels, the more dads are seen to emotionally bond with their new offspring. Oxytocin is triggered by skin to skin contact, so holding and cuddling your infant is a sure fire way to kickstart its production.
Pitch in for more change!
The really interesting thing is that men who stick around and pitch in with parenting show more of these biological changes, whereas those who don’t quickly return to normal, at least in terms of the body’s hormonal balance.
Studies in mice have even shown that involved dads actually grow new brain connections to help them cope with the blizzard of new experiences parenthood brings. Researchers observed the brains of the mice forming new neurons in the days after the birth of their pups, but only if they stuck around. Mice who were removed from their offspring on the day of the birth did not get a brain boost.
So there you have it: daddy brain is most definitely a thing. Our brains go through physical and hormonal changes to help us become better, more involved dads. But those who quickly return to old habits, and leave the bulk of parenting to mum, are likely to quickly lose these benefits.
View this post on Instagram
I love this weeks fact… Dads hormones change during pregnancy!! Society often concentrates on the changes mum and baby undergo during pregnancy, probably because the changes are more physically obvious. You may be surprised to find out which of dads hormones change during pregnancy and how this effects him. For more info check this link sml.ac/orn-fff69 #smallacorn #baby #funfactfriday #fact #pregnancy #birth #tgif #daddybrain #testosterone #dad #hormones #prolactin #doula #aquanatalyoga #antenataleducation