Close contact with babies is as important for fathers as it is for mothers, according to a Science Daily article regarding new research published in the journal PLoS ONE. Researchers at the University of Notre Dame further found that dads sleeping in close proximity to their children had lowered testosterone levels, commonly considered to foster bonding and parental involvement in men.
"Human fathers' physiology has the capacity to respond to children," said lead researcher, anthropologist Lee Gettler. "Our prior research has shown that when men become fathers, their testosterone decreases, sometimes dramatically, and that those who spend the most time in hands-on care—playing with their children, feeding them or reading to them—had lower testosterone. These new results complement the original research by taking it one step further, showing that nighttime closeness or proximity between fathers and their kids has effects on men's biology, and it appears to be independent of what they are doing during the day."
Of the 362 fathers between the ages of 25-26 in the Philippines studied, those who slept in close proximity to their children—either in a shared bed or shared room—had lower levels of testosterone in their saliva in the evenings than those who slept separately. Lower levels of testosterone have previously been found to encourage more responsive and sympathetic parenting in fathers, much like that of maternal hormones.
For Gettler, the implications of this study raise interesting questions: "How much do fathers vary in their nighttime care when their kids are close by? How does co-sleeping change fathers' sleep architecture when we know that co-sleeping increases mothers' arousals and mothers sync to their infants' sleep patterns."
While I love cuddles in bed with my son, my bed is reserved for me and my spouse. For sleep. We tried sharing the marital mattress for a time but my toddler was too fitful and we quickly tired of getting kicked, poked and prodded while we tried to get some shut-eye.
Does co-sleeping make for stronger parental bonds? Does it make you a more responsive parent as this study seems to indicate?