Take 5: Why Oxytocin in Breastfeeding is Good for Baby and Mum
Breastfeeding will introduce you to a whole new world as it encompasses your first few weeks with baby. It can be challenging and tiring at times, however it is important to cherish those amazing moments and be reassured that it does get easier. It can help to remember why breastfeeding is good for baby, alongside the countless and ever-growing number of benefits. We look into the benefits of oxytocin and why your liquid gold truly is an amazing thing!
Oxytocin is often dubbed the ‘love hormone’ or ‘cuddle chemical.’ Whenever you breastfeed, the hormone is released in your brain, and your baby’s brain too. It’s well-known that breastfeeding is good for baby but the oxytocin released during breastfeeding is also pretty great for mums too!
A rollercoaster of interactions takes place in your body so you can feed and protect your new baby, and this process relies on oxytocin. This hormone, is generated and regulated between you and your baby in four ways, as the sensory nerves are activated in:
- your nipple, as your baby sucks on it
- your baby’s mouth, as she sucks
- your baby’s gastrointestinal tract, as the milk arrives
- your skin and her skin, by the warmth and touch of breastfeeding (*Self-soothing behaviours and oxytocin)
The ‘love hormone’ has many benefits for mum and baby, take 5 to read our quick round-up:
- Oxytocin has been shown to decrease sensitivity to pain, promote healing, reduce stress and lower blood pressure in both mums and infants. (oxytocin, a mediator of anti-stress.)
- Oxytocin also plays a key part in your recovery from giving birth. If your newborn latches on early and often, it can help your uterus (womb) contract. This encourages the ‘third stage’ of childbirth, expelling the placenta, and can then protect you from losing too much blood. (oxytocin and recovery)
- As well as arousing intense feelings of love, wellbeing and calm. Once breastfeeding is established, your baby’s brain will release oxytocin whenever he sees or smells you, or hears your voice, and so he will also feel its pleasant effects at these times. Read more at Infant Journal.
- This amazing hormone also plays a vital role in helping you bond with your new baby. Mums who breastfeed have higher oxytocin levels than those who give their babies formula, and scientists have linked this with enhanced mothering behaviour, including more eye contact, caressing, affectionate language, and faster responsiveness. (*Breastfeeding Sensitivity and Attachment.)
Oxytocin has antidepressant and anti-anxiety properties – and it may protect against postnatal depression- read more here. One particular study also found that mothers with higher levels of oxytocin had fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression.