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Becoming a Father

by Maxine
Posted July 7 2010 12:12pm
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Your baby will be here very soon, and you probably have some concerns about your new role as a father. Will you know how to care for the baby? Will you connect? This worry could come from the popular belief that fathers are less sensitive than mothers – and even somewhat clumsy with their babies, especially newborns.

Not to worry – there are several studies by noted researchers that suggested that this is untrue. The results actually indicated that fathers are naturally capable of caring for their new babies, as they are generally sensitive, warm and competent caregivers. And they are just as capable or incapable as mothers. And like mom, dad can talk to and touch their babies throughout pregnancy, bonding long before they are born.

Take a look at the information below. It outlines the behavioural and emotional responses new dads showed toward their newborns, according to the research findings. You’ll find plenty of responses that show that new dads are sensitive and competent.

Biological responses:
Their heart rate and blood pressure increased while new fathers were interacting with their newborns. This suggests that new Fathers are physically prepared to respond to their babies, which shows they are certainly far from indifferent.

Feelings:
New fathers reported feeling elated when their babies were born, emotionally connected to the child and equally as anxious as Mothers about leaving them in someone else's care.

Behaviours:
New fathers frequently visited hospitalized newborns. They showed interest by behaving the same as moms when meeting their babies for the first time and when interacting with their babies in the maternity ward.Blindfolded with noses plugged, new fathers could recognize their children by touching their hands, which demonstrates a certain physical connectedness.

When observed feeding their babies, both parents responded appropriately to their baby's cues. (However, if fathers were not asked to show their competence, they were more likely to let the mothers take over.)

Researchers also discovered ways in which new fathers demonstrated sensitivity to their babies’ needs, as compared to mothers.

Distress:
When babies showed upset during feeding—for example, sneezing, spitting up, coughing, grunting, crying or moving their mouths— fathers showed sensitivity toward their babies. On average, Fathers were just as responsive as mothers.

Encouragement:
When babies needed a change in pace or support when feeding, fathers were, on average, equally as capable as mothers to encourage their babies to eat. They also responded well to their babies’ cues by either adjusting to meet the baby’s pace or using phrases like, “Open wide!” and “Look at the spoon!”

Crying:
When their babies cried, fathers were less likely than mothers to automatically pick them up. Fathers tended to wait longer than mothers to pick up crying babies.

Language:
Both mothers and fathers adjusted their speech patterns when talking to their babies. They spoke more slowly, used shorter phrases and repeated themselves more often than when speaking to an adult.

However, fathers demanded higher levels of speech from their babies. For example, while mothers were more likely to use shorter sentences, fathers used more words in their sentences. This means the babies had to pay more attention to learn what the fathers were saying.

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