Oxytocin – also known as the love hormone – plays a significant role in the postnatal period. Oxytocin aids in bonding, milk supply, lowering stress levels and helping mother and baby to rest well.
Many new parents even report feelings of euphoria and joy, despite the sleep deprived and stressful days of early parenthood.
Our bodies are designed to release lots of oxytocin during childbirth and in the presence of our new bundle of joy. There's a reason why we are so drawn to the newborn scent — because it causes oxytocin to start flowing! We smell, we feel good, we want to smell more!
In our busy, get back to ‘normal’ life culture, it can be easy to get distracted and miss opportunities to get that yummy oxytocin flowing. We can rush through feeds, make a fuss about dressing our babies to the standards of models, and we can get wrapped up in the latest baby entertainment and soothing gadgets. It’s all about finding a balance, and keeping the oxytocin flowing how and when you can.
Oxytocin seems to be an all-purpose miraculous hormone when it comes to early parenting. There is so much to love about the ‘love’ hormone – for you, your baby and your bond.
Here are 5 ways to get your new mama oxytocin flowing:
#1: Skin-to-skin Contact
Close contact with your infant via skin-to-skin is a simple way to get lots of oxytocin flowing. Your sense of touch, sight and smell will trigger the release and a feeling of love and closeness will aid in bonding.
When skin-to-skin your infant is using all of its senses which not only helps release oxytocin, it helps in maturing sensory integration. They smell you, a familiar scent from amniotic fluid. They feel your skin, encouraging the release of oxytocin. They taste while feeding and receive oxytocin through your milk. They hear your heartbeat, and maybe your voice, which are familiar sounds creating security. They see and study your face, learning to recognize you by sight.
Skin-to-skin is a great way to get that oxytocin flowing to aid in bonding, security and milk supply!
#2: Breastfeeding Your Baby
Breastfeeding is a great way to get oxytocin flowing. Both mama and baby release oxytocin while breastfeeding and baby gets extra through mama's milk. Breastfeeding often means slowing down every couple hours and being still with baby. A great time to focus on each other and get oxytocin flowing.
Mamas often find they feel sleepy during or after feeds. They often feel very close to baby while feeding. Babies are often content and secure at the breast. All signs of oxytocin flowing!
#3: Co-Sleeping or Bedsharing With Your Baby
Closeness with baby, even at night, keeps higher levels of oxytocin in baby's system. This helps many babies rest more soundly. It also helps oxytocin to keep flowing in the mother. Many co-sleeping parents report feeling co-sleeping played a role in bonding with their infants. Co-sleeping and bed sharing are a little different — co-sleeping means baby is within arm's reach, perhaps in a special sleeper attached to your bed. Whichever you feel most comfortable with is best for your family.
Mothers who rest closely with baby find they are able to rest better between nighttime feeds, which is likely an effect of oxytocin. It seems each action that encourages the release of oxytocin can reap its many benefits!
Keeping baby close via babywearing has many benefits – including the release of oxytocin! Babywearing allows parents to be up and about, while still meeting a baby's need for closeness. This helps your baby to feel secure. This also releases oxytocin in both mother and baby, which helps to encourage bonding.
Feeling and smelling your baby helps you to release oxytocin, which helps keep her stress hormones lower. The lower stress levels can prove invaluable if mama is chasing after a toddler too!
Babywearing is also great tool for dads to use. It provides a great way to bond with baby while remaining active and giving mama a break!
#5: Infant Massage
Infant massage provides an interactive way to practice some skin-to-skin. It requires focus, and eliminates distraction so you are truly connecting with your little one. When baby and caregiver are truly focused on each other the oxytocin really gets flowing.
Massaging baby has many amazing benefits. This is another great tool for dads to use to facilitate bonding.
In short, keep baby close! Simple close contact and meeting babe's need for touch gets oxytocin flowing in mama, baby and other caregivers. With all of these opportunities and the many benefits of oxytocin, try to slow down and enjoy the oxytocin. ‘Normal’ life can wait, this new normal is better and filled with loads of oxytocin goodness.
Check out why we love oxytocin for even more understanding of this amazing hormone. Once you see why we love it, it will be hard not to try everything on this list!