Scientists have long pored over the maternal connection to a baby — the boost in oxytocin, aka the "love hormone," has been documented for a century — but until much more recently hadn't given fathers the same treatment. This exclusive clip from the first episode of Netflix's docuseries Babies changes that, with a look at the chemical changes in 80 fathers over the first few months of their babies' lives.
In analyzing the oxytocin levels in fathers' saliva, researchers found that the bonding of fathers with babies mirrored that of mothers. "Fatherhood is biological," explains neuroscientist Ruth Feldman, Ph.D, in the clip. "It's as deep as motherhood."
Moreover, researchers found that the chemical response in a father correlated with the amount of time he spent caring for that baby. "The more you do with baby — really lift your sleeves and take care of the child, and wash it and feed it — engage in a parental role, the more your oxytocin system will activate," says Feldman, the Simms-Mann professor of Developmental Social Neuroscience at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzlia in Israel, with a joint appointment at Yale Child Study Center.
Neurological changes in fathers have been documented in previous studies, such as a 2014 paper published in Social Neuroscience by Yale researchers, which found increases in gray matter in parts of the brain dedicated to "parental motivation."
A 2012 Journal of Family Psychology paper found a correlation between father involvement and sensitivity at 3 months of age and the baby's attachment at 3 years old, concluding that the data supported "reciprocal relations between fathering behavior and father-child attachment security."
In other words, the below footage of fathers bathing, snuggling, and holding their babies over their heads superhero-style suggests a solid foundation for rewarding father-baby bonds for years to come.
Babies was filmed over the course of three years, and followed families through the first year of their babies' life. The first episode, "Love," explores connection between the parents and child. You can watch a clip from the episode below:
Babies is available to stream on Netflix on Feb. 21.
Ruth Feldman, Ph.D, neuroscientist, the Simms-Mann professor of Developmental Social Neuroscience at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzlia in Israel, with a joint appointment at Yale Child Study Center.
Kim, P., Rigo, P., Swain, J. (2014) Neural Plasticity in Fathers of Human Infants. Social Neuroscience, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4144350/
Brown, G., Mangelsdorf, S., Neff, C. (2012) Father Involvement, Paternal Sensitivity, and Father-Child Attachment Security in the First Three Years, Journal of Family Psychology, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4422500/?report=reader#!po=1.78571