New dad Beau Rohweder enjoyed every moment of his skin-to-skin bonding with first child Elsie after her birth. Picture: AAP/Megan Slade
New dad Beau Rohweder enjoyed every moment of his skin-to-skin bonding with first child Elsie after her birth. Picture: AAP/Megan Slade

The little thing you can do to make you a better dad

FATHERS who bond with their newborns at the birth are likely to be more involved in the care of the baby.

A new study - the first of its kind - has revealed the benefits of fathers being present when their baby arrives, and of holding it close.

While much attention has been given to what happens to mothers hormonally during and after pregnancy, little is known about how a birth affects the father's biology.

"What we see in the special days around birth is that dads' hormones - how much dads are producing overall, and how their hormones quickly change when they hold their newborns - are linked to what fathers are doing months later," said University of Notre Dame Assistant Professor of Anthropology Lee Gettler.

"This relates to how men establish bonds with their newborns - as well as with their partners - and how they will co-parent."

New dad Beau Rohweder enjoyed every moment of his skin-to-skin bonding with first child Elsie after her birth. Picture: AAP/Megan Slade
New dad Beau Rohweder enjoyed every moment of his skin-to-skin bonding with first child Elsie after her birth. Picture: AAP/Megan Slade

The testosterone and cortisol levels in almost 300 fathers were analysed for two days after the birth. Those with elevated cortisol during either skin-to-skin or clothed cuddles were more likely to be involved with care and play with their infants in their first months of life.

Cortisol is sometimes referred to as the "stress hormone", but this study shows that elevated cortisol is not always harmful.

"We tend to think of cortisol as a 'bad' hormone, but babies do require a lot of care and you do need to be vigilant," said Patty Kuo, lead author of the study, just released in the journal Hormones and Behavior.

"We think that elevated cortisol is a sort of orienting response that can help the body prepare for child care."

He might be a burly excavator driver, but Beau Rohweder is a big softie when it comes to his "little princess", Elsie.

The new Sunshine Coast father enjoyed every moment of his skin-to-skin bonding with his first child straight after her arrival.

"She is only a week old and she is on my chest all the time. It is very special, and I would highly recommend it," the 24-year-old said.