There's lots written, spoken about and information out there about the importance of Oxytocin and its role in the bonding process. Known as the love hormone and the cuddle drug, in one 2013 review paper (authors O Wurdarczyk, B Earp, A Guastella, J Savulescu) it summarised all of oxytocin's possible relationship-enhancing effects. Some of these include: trust, gazing, empathy, positive relationship memories, positive communication and processing of bonding cues. The hormone has also been shown to decrease stress and anxiety levels.
We have the privilage of watching all of these interactions during each and everyone of our classes, from baby massage and baby yoga, to music and baby sign
You can clearly see the Love, Nurture and Trust between mum and baby Harry
Baby Massage class in Halifax
The relationship between oxytocin and motherhood:
Labour - The hormone signals the uterus to contract, beginning labour. It helps move the process along by increasing the production of related hormones. After delivery, it helps the uterus return to its previous size
Breastfeeding - when a baby latches on its mothers breast, it triggers a release of oxytocin. This signals the body to let down milk for the baby
Bonding - Human and animal sudies on the effects of oxytocin on the mother-child bond have found that mothers with higher levels are more likely to engage in affectionate parenting behaviours including:
- frequent checking in on baby
- affectionate touch
- singing or speaking to baby in a certain way
- grooming and bagthing behaviours
Some research suggests that babies who receive this type of parenting experience a boost of oxytocin that makes them seek more contact with their mother, further strengthening their bond.
Interestingly - these effects aren't limited to biological mothers. researchers in one 2014 study by Johanna Bick, Mary Dozier and Damion Grasso found that oxytocin has a smilar effect in foster mothers and adoptive parents.
There is evidence that parenthood stimulates the release of oxytocin in fathers too.
Keeping it simple:
Hold me close after I am born - As soon as possible after birth skin to skin contact between a mother and her baby helps oxytocin levels peak, helping support mothering and breastfeeding
However you feed me, keep me close - skin contact and close touch help increase oxytocin and lays the foundation for a strong mother-baby relationship reglardless of feeding method
Keep me in snuggle contact - in the early days and weeks babies like to be in snuggle contact with their caregives. This helps them feel calm. When they are calm, their levels of oxytocin increase helping support their growth, especially their brain
Good for me, good for mama - Increasing oxytocin has been found to support healthy brain development. When you take a little time each day to think about your baby, to sing or talk to them, this helps increase oxytocin in you, which helps you feel calm and relaxed
In summary, Oxytocin has long been know as the warm, fuzzy hormone that promotes feelings of love, social bonding and well being. It promotes attachment, solidifies relationships, eases stress, improves social skills, triggers protective instincts, induces sleep and fosters generosity. So if you really needed any more reasons (not likely!), to get cuddling - there they are