The Power of Oxytocin
I often say that breastfeeding saved me when I became a new mom. I was crying, anxious and worried about everything. Breastfeeding did not come easy with the first, but my early commitment did pay off, and I soon started reaping the benefits of the experience. Oxytocin played a big part in this. It was my very own personal anxiety medication.
If you are currently breastfeeding or have started to read up about breastfeeding in preparation for your journey, you have probably heard of oxytocin.
Oxytocin is a hormone not limited to the perinatal period but definitely a big player in both birthing and breastfeeding your baby.
With regards to breastfeeding the role of oxytocin is important throughout the journey.
Here are some cool features of how oxytocin play its role:
-it is ejected from the posterior pituitary gland in the brain in response to nipple stimulation
-it causes the milk-ejection reflex or letdown that is needed for milk to be removed from the breast
-it continues to be a major player throughout the breastfeeding experience (even with an extended breastfeeding journey)
-it helps to control postpartum bleeding and shrink the uterus after birth by contracting it
-it increases blood flow to periphery leading to feeling warm (similar to a hot flash)
-it may lead to a sense of calmness while breastfeeding
-it is often called the ‘love hormone’ and can be released while being skin to skin with your new baby and sometimes at the thought of them
So, what can new parents do to increase oxytocin in order to maximize all the above?
Eating regularly with whole, nutritious foods
Provide a calm, low stimulus environment for yourself and your baby to spend time together (overstimulation, over tiredness can have negative effects)
Spend time skin to skin with your baby as often as you can in the early days. You can also continue skin to skin for several month
Don’t multi-task while you are breastfeeding. Calm the mind, focus on the sights, sounds and smells of your baby
Surround yourself with others who support breastfeeding (remember that being supportive of your journey is different from being indifferent to it!)
It has been shown that birth interventions and C-section births may lower your baseline of oxytocin, so doing the above to maximize your oxytocin levels would be very beneficial in these situations.
For more information on how you can prep and educate yourself or for assistance with your postpartum and breastfeeding journey, book a complimentary 15 minute call with Dr. Melanie Jacobson, ND IBCLC, or book in for an in-person visit on Tuesdays at Dupont Naturopathic Family Centre.
Written by: Dr. Melanie Jacobson, ND IBCLC