New research by Ruth Feldman of Yale found that new fathers have higher levels of oxytocin and prolactin. At one time, oxytocin was thought to only play a role in childbirth, while prolactin is still commonly thought to be involved in breastfeeding. (However, prolactin also is responsible for reducing sexual desire in men following intercourse, providing the so-called refractory period when a man's system gets at least a little rest before going at it again.)
According to The Australian,
In one set of experiments, Professor Feldman and her colleagues studied levels of the two hormones in 43 fathers in the six months after the arrival of their first child.
The men were also videotaped while cuddling or playing with their children to see how good they were at communicating with them and understanding their needs.
The researchers found a strong correlation between the levels of the two hormones in the fathers and how good they were at playing and communicating with their babies.
Actually, I wrote about this more than a year ago for Miller-McCune. See Benefits of the Daddy Brain. At that time, no one had actually tested levels of these hormones in fathers, however.
Dr. Fedman used to work at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, where she and colleagues showed that fluctuations in oxytocin levels in pregnant women predicted how attached they would be to their babies.
Her work is important for helping us understand how fathers bond -- and emphasizing how important oxytocin is for men, as well as women.