The little-known wonders of breastfeeding hormones
August 3, 2018 11:00 AM NPT
A week long program on Breastfeeding at Kathmandu Model Hospital, Kathmandu. Photo: Shreeram Poudel
Nursing is great for babies, but there's a little magic in those breastmilk hormones reserved for moms.
Aug 2: Mother Nature really knows best. We don’t need any further proof than the biological and physiological processes that provide valuable aid to man in general, and particularly to nursing moms. In fact breastfeeding triggers the secretion of two main hormones: oxytocin and prolactin. Oxytocin stimulates the milk ejection reflex — or the “let down” reflex — while prolactin plays a role in the production of milk. But this is not the one and only function of these hormones.
A hormone for maximum recovery
Incredibly, when God was creating the human body He gave a little extra thought to those poor mothers woken up in the middle of the night by their starving newborn. As if by magic, prolactin also has the ability to help speed up the process of getting back to sleep; so as soon as the baby has finished feeding moms can doze straight off to sleep — providing there’s no diaper change to be done! The hormone also encourages a deep sleep, helping mom recover as much as possible.
Create a calm environment
Oxytocin, secreted during feeds, creates a calm and relaxing effect, particularly conducive to rest and drowsiness. Whereas endorphin, the “well-being” hormone, has a euphoric effect. Mix the two hormones together and the mother is left with a feeling of serenity, so is less likely to be subjected to negative thoughts. It seems that depression is less prevalent in breastfeeding moms, and what’s more, nursing inspires in women a sense of accomplishment and competence.
Encourages the mother and child bond
Oxytocin also fosters the attachment between the mother and her child — this instinctive and unconditional love that comes with the need to look after them. On the child’s arrival the mom and dad aren’t yet fully attached to their newborn. Of course, the parents have waited for the birth, and the child is now present in their lives, but there remains lots to be done for the joyful bond between the child and its mom and dad to be forged. This bond will develop over the course of the baby’s first few weeks. Of course, it’s important to note that if a mother doesn’t breastfeed, this will not stop the mother-child bond from forming and will by no means stop her from being a wonderful mother. However, the mom will not benefit from the invaluable aid that nature has provided for through the wonders of oxytocin and the other hormones secreted during breastfeeding.