Dads who are hands-on with newborn babies are less depressed, study finds

Al Roker and Craig Melvin opened up about their own experiences.
/ Source: TODAY

A new study suggests being involved with their newborn babies improves fathers’ mental health — something TODAY’s Al Roker and Craig Melvin fully believe.

But Craig, 41, was quick to note that many men don’t feel “useful” during the first year, especially if the mom is breastfeeding.

“When the kids are 2 and 3, you can go out and play,” the dad to son Del, 6, and daughter Sibby, 3, explained during the 3rd Hour of TODAY on Thursday morning.

Al said that when his children, Courtney, 33, Leila, 21, and Nick, 18, were babies, they had a “a mix of breast and bottle,” which meant he could help with nighttime feedings.

Al then shared a funny story about Leila trying to nurse on him.

“One time when I was a little little heavier, Leila made a mistake,” he laughed. “I didn’t have my shirt on.”

“She was teething!” Al added, letting out a yelp.

Sore nipple aside, Al was on to something by taking on night feedings, according to a report published earlier this week in Frontiers in Psychiatry.

TODAY's Al Roker with his kids, Courtney, Leila and Nick, and his wife, Deborah Roberts. alroker / Instagram

To gather the data, a team of researchers from California State University interviewed 881 fathers in five different states one month after the births of their children. The dads they interviewed were low-income and ethnically and racially diverse. Researchers then followed up with the fathers at at regular intervals until the babies reached 12 months.

“We found that fathers who were more involved with their infants shortly after their birth were less likely to be depressed a year later,” Dr. Olajide N. Bamishigbin Jr., an assistant professor of psychology at California State University, said in a press release.

The researchers suggested several reasons for their findings.

“Fathers who are more involved during infancy may feel more competent as parents and be more satisfied in their role as parents over time, and this could contribute to lower depressive symptoms,” Bamishigbin explained.

TODAY's Craig Melvin with his wife, Lindsay Czarniak, and their kids, Del and Sibby.craigmelvinnbc / Instagram

Bamishigbin said the study also highlights the importance of policies such as paid paternity leave.

“(It) can allow fathers the opportunity to be more involved with their kids and gain confidence as a parent early on in their lives, without having to worry about their economic security, and may help allow fathers more opportunities to be involved with their kids,” Bamishigbin said. “In turn, this may improve the well-being of the entire family.”

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