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Mom v Dad

By Pat Sheans, MSN, NNP

Mom v Dad

In case you haven’t noticed, moms and dads definitely parent differently. But guess what? Each of you has unique, positive qualities that baby needs.

Since babies can’t understand words, they learn about the world around them by watching the expressions on their caregiver’s face and by listening to the tone of their voice. Both parents nurture, and both are important to their child’s emotional development.

Do Moms Parent More?

Even with more co-parenting and stay-at-home dads, research has consistently found that moms still spend 2 to 3 times as much time with the kiddos as dads do—even when mom works full time.
Kids with dad at home benefit because shared parenting increases. Moms tend to spend more time with them on a day-to-day basis than working dads do, stepping in to her primary parent role soon after she gets home from work.
Moms also take more overall responsibility for their kids’ care, and when they’re parenting, they’re more likely to spend time alone with children, and also spend more time multi-tasking. Mom is also more likely to chauffeur baby to play dates.

Do Dads Play More?

Dads are more likely to spend their parenting time playing than any other kinds of caring. Dads excel at physical play, handling their baby, tossing the baby in the air, and other rough and tumble activities.
Dads tend to play longer with baby sons, and are more physical with boys than with girls. Dads try to surprise their babies with new games and activities, leading to more excitement, more laughter, and more tears than when babies play with mom.
Moms are more likely to play with their baby using objects and toys, and moms pay more attention to changes in their baby’s face, and whether baby is looking around. Dads react to smiling less often than moms, and dads tend to talk to their baby more, while moms tend to touch baby more.

Brilliant Bonding

That magical brain chemical oxytocin (sometimes called the love hormone) is the glue of parenting and bonding. Moms and dads both have it in their brains, and it increases when they touch their baby. Birth, breastfeeding, and affectionate contact also increase oxytocin in moms. Being physical and being active, such as with exploration or adventure play, increase oxytocin in dads. So the effect is similar, but the cause is slightly different: Moms make more of it when they affectionately touch their baby, and dads make more of it when they are physical with their baby.
Either way, baby loves you both.

Pat Sheans, MSN, NNP, is an expert advisor to Healthy Mom&Baby with Legacy Health System in Portland, OR.

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