Oxytocin - the love hormone (and it's involvement in breastfeeding)

February 14, 2017

Oxytocin - the love hormone

Oxytocin is an important hormone that is released from our brain.

Oxytocin has many roles in our body including…

- stimulation of uterine smooth muscle contraction during labour

- milk ejection during lactation  

- In the male - a potent stimulator of spontaneous erections in rats and is involved in ejaculation.

- the establishment of complex social and bonding behaviors

- exerts potent antistress effects

- a central mediator of prosocial behavior

- is an important modulator of anxiety and fear response

- a central role in general behavioural regulation, particularly in positive social interactions.

-  the ability to form normal social attachments

- facilitates approach behaviour. - promotes social attachment and affiliation

- increases trust in human

- Oxytocin Improves social cue reading.

Oxytocin and breastfeeding

Oxytocin is important for the milk ejection reflexes:

- The secretion of the mammary glands is triggered when the infant begins to suck on the nipple.

- This generates sensory impulses that are transmitted from the nipples to the spinal cord and then to the secretory neurons in the brain

- There it causes contraction of the cells in the breast tissue, resulting in let-down 30 seconds to one minute latter.

What can you do to maximise your oxytocin release when breastfeeding?

*Get yourself checked:

One study looked at 3 successful cases of stimulation of milk supply after Chiropractic. The authors state “The presence of subluxation can interfere with the integrity of the neuro-hormonal axis at the cranial or vertebral level. The uterus, cervix, and vaginal canal are innervated by afferent fibers in the hypogastric and pelvic nerves. Subluxation at the vertebral levels from which these branches originate could interfere with…. development of the breast tissue. Structural dysfunction as a result of posture, ergonomics, strain or trauma can result in a disruption in the neural competency of a mother to successfully breastfeed her infant”

* Be in your most relaxed state:

In early breastfeeding we want to be in the most calm state possible. With a busy lifestyle it is easy to be in a less than calm state. It's worth looking at your daily activities to ensure you are not rushing around too much, and are finding time to ensure quiet, relaxed moments.

* Address any post natal depression issues:

- studies have shown relationships between symptoms of depression and anxiety with decreased oxytocin response and breastfeeding duration.

 * bonding is important.

For example one study has shown that babies use both suckling and body movements to provide cues to a mother’s nervous system, to stimulate oxytocin.

Body contact and touch are important mediators of this.

*Thinking positive thoughts/ focus on uplifting visions.

One study has shown that mother watching videos of people doing good deeds resulted in better nursing, possibly due to increased oxytocin release. Those watching a comedy video did not get the same response.

* Listen to music.

Music has been shown to increase the levels of oxytocin release.

The type of music was not stated, by it may make sense to choose music that is calming and uplifting.

* Meditate or find a relaxing activity

One study found that yoga stimulates milk production by creating peace of mind,  and relaxation, thus affecting the release of prolactin and oxytocin hormones for breast milk production.