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

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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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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Neve Campbell recently went from a mama of one to two when she and her husband, JJ Feild, adopted a baby son they named Raynor.

Raynor is a super unique baby name. While Neve's son shares his name with a garage door manufacturing company and a character from the Starcraft video game, he probably won't share it with anyone in his future elementary school.

So why did Campbell and Feild pick a name that's literally off the Social Security Administration's baby name chart? Well, because his 6-year-old brother's name isn't very common either.

"Our son Caspian has a unique name, I like having a unique name," Campbell explained on a recent episode of Live with Kelly and Ryan. "So we weren't gonna call him Bob because you can't be Bob and Caspian."

Baby name experts agree with Campbell

Linda Rosenkrantz of Nameberry.com previously offered this advice to Motherly readers:

"If you already have children, consider how the new baby's name would blend with the others. I can't imagine Kendyl and Keeley with a brother named Ezekiel."

The Kendyl and Keely in Rosenkrantz's example are the daughters of country star Jason Aldean, whose wife Brittany was expecting this time last year (and is again now).

The Aldeans ended up choosing Memphis as the name for their now 7-month-old baby boy, and while it's not as matchy-matchy as Kendyl and Keely's are, it does seem to flow well alongside them.

The same can be said for Raynor and Caspian.

Campbell was totally right. 'Bob' just wouldn't have been a good fit.

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When model Mara Martin was one of 16 finalists selected to walk in the 2018 Sports Illustrated Swim Search show, she was thrilled to fulfill a lifelong dream. And when she woke up the day after the show to see that she and her baby daughter had made headlines around the world, she was thrilled all over again.

Martin breastfed her 5-month-old daughter Aria while walking in the runway, and the story spread quickly.


"It is truly so humbling and unreal to say the least," Martin wrote in an Instagram post Monday. "I'm so grateful to be able to share this message and hopefully normalize breastfeeding and also show others that women CAN DO IT ALL! But to be honest, the real reason I can't believe it is a headline is because it shouldn't be a headline!!! My story of being a mother and feeding her while walking is just that."

SI Swimsuit Editor MJ Day says the breastfeeding moment wasn't planned in advance, but it worked out wonderfully. Day was speaking with the models backstage when she noticed Aria was peacefully nursing away. Having breastfed her own two children, Day recognized this as a powerful moment in the making, according to SI Swimsuit.

"I asked Mara if she would want to walk and continue to nurse. She said 'Oh my gosh, yes! Really? Are you sure?', and I said absolutely! I loved the idea to be able to allow Mara to keep nursing and further highlight how incredible and beautiful women are," Day explained.

Martin hopes that her moment in the spotlight can help other mamas feel comfortable nursing when and where they feel like it, but she doesn't want to overshadow some of the other women who took part in the show.

"One woman is going to boot camp in two weeks to serve our country," she wrote. "One woman had a mastectomy (@allynrose), and another is a cancer survivor, 2x paralympic gold medalist, as well as a mother herself (@bren_hucks you rock) Those are the stories that our world should be discussing!!!!"

And thanks to Martin's powerful motherhood moment, now, people are.

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Usually when celebrities post swimsuit photos on Instagram they don't exactly look like your average beach-going mom, but former Bachelorette (and mom of two) Ali Fedotowsky posted a series of bikini photos on Monday that are both beautiful and relatable.

"This might be my most vulnerable post on Instagram ever," she wrote in the caption for the photos which show a postpartum belly that looks like a real postpartum belly.

"At the end of the day, I know it's important to be open and honest about my postpartum body in hopes that it helps even one person out there who is struggling with their own body image," Fedotowsky (who just gave birth to her second child in May) wrote.

In the first photo of the series she's wearing a sarong around her stomach, but in the second and third photos Fedotowsky reveals the kind of stomach many mamas sport: It's not perfectly taut, she's not showing off any abs, but it is definity beautiful.

"If you swipe to see the second photo in this post, you see that my body has changed. My skin around my stomach is very loose and stretched out, I'm 15lbs heavier than I used to be, and my cup size has grown quite significantly," Fedotowsky writes.

The photos are a sponsored post for Lilly and Lime Swimwear (a line made for women with larger busts) but that doesn't mean it wasn't brave. In fact, the fact that it's an ad makes it even more amazing because research shows that when advertising only shows us bodies that don't look like our own, women become "generally more dissatisfied with their body and appearance".

Ali Fedotowsky

On her blog Fedotowsky notes that a lot of comments on her previous Instagram posts have been followers remarking how slim she looks, or how much they wish they looked like she does postpartum. By dropping that sarong and showing her tummy Fedotowsky is showing other mothers that there is nothing wrong with their own.

"While I appreciate the positive comments, you guys are always so good to me, I keep trying to explain that I'm just good at picking out clothes that flatter my body and hide my tummy," she wrote on her blog.

"I bounced back pretty quickly after I gave birth to Molly. But things are different this time and I'm OK with that. I'm learning to love my body and embrace how it's changed. I hope I get back to my pre-pregnancy shape one day, but that may never happen. And if it doesn't, that's OK."

Ali Fedotowsky

It is okay, because our bodies are more than our swimsuit selfies. They the vessels that carry us through life and carry our children and provide a safe, warm place for those children feel love.

Loose skin is a beautiful thing.


Thanks for keeping it real, Ali.

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