Hurrying to your baby the instant he cries is a natural human instinct, but a mom may be wired to be more sensitive to what these cries mean than anyone else.
A study on mice published in Nature found that adding oxytocin (the hormone that helps you go through labor and is also released when you lactate) changed the way the mice processed their pups' crying. It became a tool that enabled them to recognize and respond to the sound ASAP.
Study senior investigator Robert Froemke explained that a huge dose of the hormone oxytocin speeds up and amplifies a mom's brain processing power to learn and understand a baby's cries and act on it with a sense of urgency.
And every cry is a learning experience. When our babies cry, “[as parents, we] don't know what's really going to work, we just try a bunch of stuff. Let's change a diaper, let's feed the baby, let's do a little dance," Froemky tells Mother.ly. It allows moms to develop quick and reliable behaviors to address the baby's needs.
Now that seems to be a valid scientific explanation of a mother's instinct, but it doesn't kick in instantly for some women. Everybody tells preggos that all the pain and difficulty of giving birth goes away when you finally hold your baby in your arms. Some moms don't have that; for some women, they really just feel relief from labor and delivery.
And it's okay. Some women are still high on oxytocin when they meet their child and feel that an instant connection. Other new moms need a little more getting used to listening to their maternal instinct — and your baby's cry can help you develop and hone that.
What about dads, you ask? The study says new dads have it too, but they respond to it differently. A baby's cries don't give them a sense of urgency as it does to moms, says a small study published in NatureReport.
Froemke suggests that the reason men aren't that as sensitive to oxytocin because "the male oxytocin system is already maxed out." That's it's crucial for dads to be present and involved with their partners and their babies as it boosts the natural oxytocin in dads and, in turn, helps them learn the ropes of parenting.
Boom! That's all the more reason to include dads in every step of the parenting journey.