There are a lot of fun facts about babies out there, like how newborns don’t produce tears when they cry, they’re ambidextrous, and they have more bones than adults. But there are some other things that we should dive into a little bit more. Here are the five baby facts every dad should know.
1. Babies shouldn’t have honey for the first 12 months of life.
This may seem odd as honey is traditionally given to babies across many parts of the world including the Middle East and Africa. While culture isn’t something I’ll argue against, it is worth noting that honey can contain a toxin-producing bacteria in the baby’s intestines. This can lead to infant botulism, which can cause constipation accompanied by floppy movements, weakness, and difficulty sucking or feeding (Source). If not treated early, it can be life-threatening, but most babies make a full recovery when treated in a hospital. Botulism may be rare, but it’s still something to be aware of. After 12 months, honey is harmless to babies because their digestive systems are more developed and can move toxins through the body more efficiently (Source).
2. Guys’ testosterone levels drop after becoming dads.
Anna Machin, an evolutionary anthropologist, wrote about the biological changes we go through when we become fathers. While a lot happens, particularly with our brains, the main thing is our natural drop in testosterone levels. Generally speaking, it happens because it primes us to be better dads. The levels drop differently for everyone, but the more significant the drop, the bigger the change as caregivers. From a scientific standpoint, it makes us more empathetic, lowers the risk of hostility and aggression, and fathers are more likely to “release key reward and bonding hormones, namely oxytocin and dopamine when interacting with his child” (Source). This basically means we feel happier and more content when bonding.
3. Babies are born with fontanelles.
Fontanelles are newborn soft spots on the top/middle and the back of the head, near the crown. Little did I know, these are completely normal. Newborn skulls aren’t fully fused for a few reasons. First, it’s so their skulls can mold to the shape of the birth canal. Second, that space is going to accommodate the rapid growth of your baby’s brain in the early months. The rear soft spot will usually be the first one to close around six months. The top one is going to close around 18 months. Rest assured that if you softly touch it, you’re not pressing on your child’s brain. There are layers and membranes that separate the skin from the brain.
4. You should introduce peanut products early.
A long time ago, it was widely recommended to avoid giving allergenic products, like peanut products, to your babies, but that advice has changed. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, you should introduce peanuts and different allergenic foods, like eggs, soy, wheat, and fish, earlier rather than later. This can possibly prevent your child from developing food-related allergies. However, always check with your child’s pediatrician first.
According to the AAP, there is a strategy to introducing these foods (Source):
Start solids with a few foods that are of low-allergy risk— for example infant cereal, pureed bananas, and pureed prunes. Give your baby one new food at a time, and wait at least 2 to 3 days before starting another. After each new food, watch for any allergic reactions such as diarrhea, a rash, or vomiting. If any of these occur, stop using the new food and consult with your child’s pediatrician.
If there is no special reason to be concerned that your baby is at an increased risk for food allergies, after a few first foods have been tolerated, you can start to introduce the more highly allergenic foods (milk, soy, wheat, peanut, tree nuts, fish, and shellfish). It is important that these—and all foods—are in forms and textures appropriate for infants. For instance, while whole cow’s milk is not recommended before 1 year of age; you may introduce processed dairy products such as whole milk yogurt or Greek yogurt mixed with a fruit that your baby has already had in his or her diet.
Once again, always consult your child’s pediatrician before making any dietary changes
5. Learning toys alone don’t necessarily help babies get smarter.
Learning and Montessori type toys have a lot of value in allowing kids to explore, but it’s important to remember that sticking an infant in a room with pricey, organic block shapes alone won’t lead to much. As dads, we should actively be involved and provide a balance of engagement and exploratory play.
Sensory play will aid in their development, but your presence and guidance can make a difference as well. Asking what does this sound like? What does this feel like? What color is this? Make an introduction and have fun with them before taking a moment to a step back to let them play and explore their toys freely.