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It's science: What happens to a guy's brain when he becomes a dad

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There's a saying that a woman becomes a mother when she sees that positive pregnancy test, but a man becomes a father in the delivery room.

For men, the moment when you first come face to face with your child isn't just a life-altering emotional experience, but also a physiological one—thanks to dropping testosterone levels and rising prolactin and oxytocin levels.

Although this may make new dads feel like their hormones are all over the place, it's for a purpose, says anthropologist Lee Gettler, a researcher with the University of Notre Dame's Center for Children and Families. "Based on a number of lines of evidence, these hormonal changes in fathers seem to reflect that evolution has shaped men's biology to help them respond to the demands of parenthood," said Gettler in a 2014 talk. "Our research facilitates men's understanding of their own 'built-in' biological parenting capabilities, which is highly applicable to the day-to-day lives of millions of men."

Testosterone drops

According to a 2011 longitudinal study from Gettler's team, new fathers' testosterone levels fall by about 40% in the first month of parenthood, which seemed to be linked to their paternal sensitivity and attachment.

"Our findings suggest that human males have an evolved neuroendocrine architecture that is responsive to committed parenting, supporting a role of men as direct caregivers during hominin evolution," the researchers said in their discussion, explaining fathers with higher levels of testosterone were less responsive to infant cries and reported feeling less sympathy.

Prolactin rises

While testosterone levels drop, studies show the estrogen levels of expectant fathers begins to rise in the weeks before the baby's due date and continues to stay elevated for months afterward. Along with that, new dads experience an average 20% rise in their prolactin levels in the first month.

While this hormone is commonly associated with promoting lactation among mothers, researchers believe the purpose for dads is promoting the development of paternal behaviors. As authors of a 2016 study published in the Journal of Postgraduate Medicine said, "The prolactin level was found to be correlated with father-infant interaction in a social context, and fathers with higher prolactin profiles were found to be more responsive to baby cues."

The 'love hormone' goes into overdrive

Among new moms, oxytocin goes into action to facilitate birth and breastfeeding. But among new dads, the triggers have more to do with "stimulatory play," such as when they pull the baby up to sit or are able to get them to giggle. This, again, plays a "significant role in establishing a sense of fatherhood during the infant's first growth stages," says Ruth Feldman, adjunct professor at the Child Study Center at Yale University School of Medicine and author of several studies on the topic.

Feldman's research found that mothers tend to experience oxytocin boosts from moments of loving physical contact while fathers got a surge in their "love hormone" more from play. That means there are more and more opportunities for oxytocin hits as babies grow.

And as the parental relationship deepens, fathers' oxytocin sensitivity rises: According to a study published in the journal Hormones and Behavior last year, dads of toddlers experience spikes to their oxytocin levels simply by looking at pictures of their kids.

In other words: Fatherhood forever changes men's hormones—in the very best of ways.

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While breastfeeding might seem like a simple task, there are so many pieces to the puzzle aside from your breasts and baby. From securing a good latch, boosting your milk supply and navigating pumping at work or feeding throughout the night, there's a lot that mama has to go through—and a number of products she needs.

No matter how long your nursing journey may be, it can be hard to figure out what items you really need to add to your cart. So we asked our team at Motherly to share items they simply couldn't live without while breastfeeding. You know, those ones that are a total game-changer.

Here are the best 13 products that they recommend—and you can get them all from Walmart.com:

1. Medela Nursing Sleep Bra

"This fuss-free nursing bra was perfect for all the times that I was too tired to fumble with a clasp. It's also so comfy that, I have to admit, I still keep it in rotation despite the fact that my nursing days are behind me (shh!)." —Mary S.

Price: $15.99

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2. Dr. Brown's Baby First Year Transition Bottles

"My daughter easily transitioned back and forth between breastfeeding and these bottles." —Elizabeth

Price: $24.98

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3. Multi-Use Nursing Cover

"When I was breastfeeding, it was important to me to feel like a part of things, to be around people, entertain guests, etc. Especially since so much of being a new mom can feel isolating. So having the ability to cover up but still breastfeed out in the open, instead of disappearing into a room somewhere for long stretches alone to feed, made me feel better."—Renata

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4. Lansinoh TheraPearl Breast Therapy Pack

"I suffered from extreme engorgement during the first weeks after delivery with both of my children. I wouldn't have survived had it not been for these packs that provided cold therapy for engorgement and hot therapy for clogged milk ducts." —Deena

Price: $10.25

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5. Medela Quick Clean Breast Pump Wipes

"Being a working and pumping mama, these quick clean wipes made pumping at the office so much easier, and quicker. I could give everything a quick wipe down between pumping sessions. And did not need a set of spare parts for the office." —Ashley

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6. Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter

"This nipple butter is everything, you don't need to wash it off before baby feeds/you pump. I even put some on my lips at the hospital and it saved me from chapped lips and nips." —Conz

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7. Medela Double Electric Pump

"I had latch issues and terrible postpartum anxiety, and was always worried my son wasn't getting enough milk. So I relied heavily on my breast pump so that I could feed him bottles and know exactly how much he was drinking. This Medela pump and I were best friends for almost an entire year" —Karell

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8. Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads

"I overproduced in the first couple weeks (and my milk would come in pretty much every time my baby LOOKED at my boobs), so Lansinoh disposable nursing pads saved me from many awkward leak situations!" —Justine

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9. Haakaa Silicone Manual Breast Pump

"This has been a huge help in saving the extra milk from the letdown during breastfeeding and preventing leaks on my clothes!" —Rachel

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10. Medela Harmony Breast Pump

"Because I didn't plan to breastfeed I didn't buy a pump before birth. When I decided to try, I needed a pump so my husband ran out and bought this. It was easy to use, easy to wash and more convenient than our borrowed electric pump." —Heather

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11. Milkies Fenugreek

"I struggled with supply for my first and adding this to my regimen really helped with increasing milk." —Mary N.

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12. Lansinoh Breast Milk Storage Bags

"I exclusively pumped for a year with my first and these are hands down the best storage bags. All others always managed to crack eventually. These can hold a great amount and I haven't had a leak! And I have used over 300-400 of these!" —Carla

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13. Kiinde Twist Breastfeeding Starter Kit

"The Kiinde system made pumping and storing breastmilk so easy. It was awesome to be able pump directly into the storage bags, and then use the same bags in the bottle to feed my baby." —Diana

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This article is sponsored by Walmart. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Orange Is the New Black star Danielle Brooks is pregnant and frustrated. The actress took to Instagram this week to lament the lack of plus-sized options for pregnant people.

"It's so hard to find some clothes to wear today....Although I get to pregnant I still can't find no clothes. It's so hard to find some clothes when you're pregnant," she sings in a lighthearted yet serious video.

"It's so hard to find cute plus size maternity fashion while pregnant, but ima push through," she captioned the clip.

Brooks has been talking a lot this week about the issues people who wear plus size clothing face not just when trying to find clothes but in simply moving through a world that does not support them.

"I feel like the world has built these invisible bullets to bully us in telling us who we're supposed to be and what we're supposed to look like. And I've always had this desire to prove people wrong—to say that this body that I'm in is enough," she told SHAPE (she's on the new cover).

"Now that I'm about to be a mother, it means even more—to make sure that this human being I'm going to bring into the world knows that they are enough," she said.

Danielle Brooks is the body-positive hero we need right now. Now can someone make her some cute maternity clothes, please?

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Can pregnancy be contagious among friends? Science says yes, and so do some staff at a hospital in Maine where nine nurses from the Labor & Delivery Unit were all expecting at the same time, and now they are all mamas.

About 5 months ago, after one of the nurses posted a photo of 8 of the 9 mamas-to-be the sweet pic quickly went viral.

Soon local news stations picked up the story of the baby boom on the L&D unit at Maine Medical Center.



"It's really nice coming to work and seeing other people who are just as pregnant and watching their bellies pop and just talking about these experiences that we are going through together," one of the nurses, Amanda Spear, told WMTW.

"I feel like every other day we would come into work and it would be like, 'someone else is pregnant,'" Spear told NBC.

Another of the nurses, Erin Grenier, said that with every pregnancy announcement the staff got more and more excited for each other.

Nurse Brittney Verville couldn't believe the photo she posted to Facebook before resting up for the night shift got thousands of likes and shares. "When we woke up we're like, 'oh my gosh I think we're viral,'" she told NBC.

Now, the mamas are going viral again, as a picture of the babies is blowing up, even making it to CNN.

The youngest is 3 weeks old and the oldest is 3½ months. The mamas are already getting them together for playdates. The photographer who snapped the viral pic, Carly Murray, told CNN she hopes one say these kiddos understand how important the work their mamas do is.

Congrats to the nurse of the Maine Medical Center Labor and Delivery Unit! 🎉

[A version of this post was originally published March 26, 2019. It has been updated.]

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In the last couple of years Prince Harry has had more eyes on him than ever before, and the beaming new dad has been showing the world that red hair can look really good.

While Prince Harry has taken some ribbing for his hair over the years, it's pretty clear that the former Meghan Markle loves him dearly (red hair and all) and everyone is wondering if baby Archie will be a ginger, too. It looks like Harry's genes are pretty strong.

Several media outlets are reporting that baby Archie appears to have reddish hair, but only time will truly tell if that peach fuzz turns into real read hair.

Is baby Archie really a redhead? 

Photographs of baby Archie seem to suggest his hair does have a reddish hue, and it is totally possible for a couple to have a redheaded baby even if one of them isn't a ginger.

"Even when we can't always see red hair, many people still carry the genes," says Professor Mark Elgar, an evolutionary biologist from the University of Melbourne.

"Recessive genes can stay hidden for a long time, which is why brown-eyed parents can have blue eyed child, just as brown-haired parents can have a redheaded baby," says Professor Elgar.

According to Elgar, this is why reports of redheads with blue eyes (like Prince Harry) "going extinct" are exaggerated. "It does not look like the traits will disappear due to dilution of either the redhead or the blue-eyed genes from the human population."

The ginger genes 

So, if the Duchess has the gene for red hair, baby Archie may share Prince Harry's hair hue. According to USA Today, John H. McDonald, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Delaware put the chances of a redheaded baby for the couple at about 10%.

In fact, there's a chance that any baby—even those with two non-redhead parents—can be a redhead. Recessive genes can pop up seemingly out of nowhere, surprising parents.

While the internet is getting very excited about the possibility that baby Archie is a ginger, we know no matter what his hair eventually looks like (he dies;t have a lot of it right now) his mama will love him as much as she loves his father.

Here's to the redheads. 🎉

[A version of this post was originally published November 5, 2018. It has been updated.]

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Alexis Ohanian has made a lot of important decisions in his life. The decision to co-found Reddit is a pretty big one. So was marrying Serena Williams. But right up there with changing internet culture and making a commitment to his partner, the venture capitalist lists taking time off after his daughter's birth as a significant, life-changing choice.

"Before Olympia was born, I had never thought much about paternity leave and, to be honest, Reddit's company policy was not my idea. Our vice president of people and culture, Katelin Holloway, brought it up to me in a meeting and it sounded O.K., so why not?" Ohanian writes in an op-ed for New York Times Parenting.

He continues: "Then came Olympia, after near-fatal complications forced my wife, Serena, to undergo an emergency C-section. Serena spent days in recovery fighting for her life against pulmonary embolisms. When we came home with our baby girl, Serena had a hole in her abdomen that needed bandage changes daily. She was on medication. She couldn't walk."

The experience changed the way Ohanian viewed paternity leave. It was no longer something that just sounded like a good thing, it was a necessary thing for his family. It was crucial that he take it and now he is advocating for more fathers to be able to. In his piece for the NYT Ohanian points out something that Motherly has previously reported on: It is hard for fathers to take paternity leave even when their government or employer offers it.

A report from Dove Men+Care and Promundo (a global organization dedicated to gender equality) found 85% of dads surveyed in the United States, the UK, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Japan and the Netherlands would do anything to be very involved in the early weeks and months after their child's birth or adoption, but less than 50% of fathers take as much time as they are entitled to.

Dads need paid leave, but even when they have it social pressures and unrealistic cultural expectations keep them from taking it and they choose not to take all the time they can. Ohanian wants lawmakers and business leaders to make sure that dads can take leave and he wants to help fathers choose to actually take it.

"I was able to take 16 weeks of paid leave from Reddit, and it was one of the most important decisions I've made," Ohanian previously wrote in an essay for Glamour.

Ohanian recognizes that he is privileged in a way most parents aren't.

"It helped that I was a founder and didn't have to worry about what people might say about my 'commitment' to the company, but it was incredible to be able to spend quality time with Olympia. And it was perhaps even more meaningful to be there for my wife and to adjust to this new life we created together—especially after all the complications she had during and after the birth," he wrote for Glamour.

In his NYT piece, Ohanian goes further: "I get that not every father has the flexibility to take leave without the fear that doing so could negatively impact his career. But my message to these guys is simple: Taking leave pays off, and it's continued to pay dividends for me two years later. It should be no surprise that I also encourage all of our employees to take their full leave at Initialized Capital, where I am managing partner; we recently had three dads on paid paternity leave at the same time."

The GOAT's husband is making the same points that we at Motherly make all the time. Research supports paid leave for all parents. It benefits the baby and the parents and that benefits society.

By first taking his leave and then speaking out about the ways in which it benefited his family, Ohanian is using his privileged position to de-stigmatize fathers taking leave, and advocate for more robust parental leave policies for all parents, and his influence doesn't end there. He's trying to show the world that parents shouldn't have to cut off the parent part of themselves in order to be successful in their careers.

He says that when his parental leave finished he transitioned from being a full-time dad to a "business dad."

"I'm fortunate to be my own boss, which comes with the freedoms of doing things like bringing my daughter into the office, or working remotely from virtually anywhere Serena competes. My partners at Initialized are used to seeing Olympia jump on camera—along with her doll Qai Qai—or hearing her babbling on a call. I tell them with pride, 'Olympia's at work today!' And I'll post some photos on Instagram or Twitter so my followers can see it too," Ohanian explains.

"The more we normalize this, on social media and in real life, the better, because I know this kind of dynamic makes a lot of men uncomfortable (and selfishly I want Olympia to hear me talking about start-ups!)," he says.

This is the future of family-friendly work culture. Take it from a guy who created an entire internet culture.

[A version of this post was originally published February 19, 2019. It has been updated.]

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