The early days with a new baby can be exhausting and stressful for both moms and dads, but how they cope with the challenges of new parenthood is very different according to new research.
A new study from Penn State University has found that moms and dads are affected differently when they welcome a new baby and each has specific needs in order to cope with the stress of infant care. It should be absolutely no surprise that what moms need most in order to support a healthy family dynamic is sleep. Dads, on the other hand, need exercise.
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The study looked at data from 143 moms and 140 dads collected 10 months after the birth of their babies, tracking the answers to questions about sleep patterns, exercise routine and perceived well-being of the family as a whole. Moms that slept more on average than other moms reported greater well-being, but dads who slept more on average actually reported lower well-being.
On the days that dads exercised more than usual, less arguments occurred between the couple. The same was not true for moms and exercise, however, as arguments tended to increase on the days that moms reported engaging in more exercise.
The research team suggests that new parents track their own sleep and exercise habits, the same way you might track your newborn’s patterns, with an app. Parents can then use the info to asses how it lines up with their mood and well-being and adjust their behaviors. “Most parents already have a good place to start from at least on some days, so it’s a matter of figuring out what works on those days and then doing more of that,” Mark Feinberg, lead author on the study said. “This would be an easier and maybe more effective approach than thinking that we have to help someone completely change their routines and emotional patterns.”