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How to boost oxytocin postnatally

Updated: Jan 8

Just a quick post today with a few simple and easy tips on how to boost oxytocin after birth, this can be especially important in cases where oxytocin has been inhibited during the birthing process.


During a straightforward vaginal birth oxytocin is the driving force of labour, once baby is born oxytocin remains and multiplies in the birthing persons body, as well as the babies body, in extremely large amounts which aids both bonding and attachment between parent and baby.


However, not everybody is able to have a straightforward vaginal birth due to choice, medical necessity, or medical emergency. Some labours require induction (which may use synthetic oxytocin which does not cross the blood/brain barrier) or cesarean section in which cases oxytocin may not be created due to overriding stress factors, or may only be present in small amounts. BUT there are many ways you can boost oxytocin after birth to help boost that vital bonding and attachment!


SKIN TO SKIN

  • Skin to skin, in ordinary circumstances, should be done as soon after birth as possible and is as simple as placing your babies bare skin against your own (for example laying across your chest, in your arms)

  • The skin to skin contact stimulates a huge release of oxytocin in both parent and baby

  • This also helps to;

  • regulate body temperature

  • stimulate the uterus to help birth the placenta and decrease in size

  • support optimum brain development

  • facilitate attachment


BREAST / CHEST FEEDING

"breastfeeding is one of the most oxytocin-rich periods in life"

  • During breast/chestfeeding oxytocin is released in both parent and baby

  • The repeated pulses of oxytocin can actually heal the damage of the loss of oxytocin suffered during birth

  • Breast/chestfeeding generally goes hand in hand with skin-to-skin and secure attachment which we already know also boosts oxytocin

  • If a parent has suffered a traumatic birth experience then they may struggle to initiate breast/chestfeeding, if it is their wish, then extra help should be offered to ensure they get off to the best start


EXTRA SUPPORT & TOUCH

  • Touch and loving support is a great, gentle and easy way to boost oxytocin after birth

  • This can come from birth partner, a doula, the parents other children or close friends/family

  • This extra support and gentle touch can help parents feel seen and heard in what may otherwise be a difficult time and therefore reduce stress

  • The touch stimulates oxytocin by reminding the birthing person that they are safe, secure and loved

  • If you are planning a cesarean or induced birth it may be a good idea to plan for extra support after birth to facilitate this, for example by hiring a postnatal doula.


BABY MASSAGE

  • Once feeling recovered enough from birth, baby massage is a great activity to promote oxytocin in both parent and baby

  • Baby massage stimulates bonding and attachment through touch and skin to skin

  • Studies show that parents who partake in baby massage gain more pleasure from playing with their babies and feel closer to their babies, this is likely due to the oxytocin it produces!

  • The stimulation of oxytocin in baby during a massage can also make the baby feel calm, safe and sleepy

  • Baby massage can be done in classes or learnt online


Information from "Why Oxytocin Matters" by Kerstin Uvnas Moberg

(additional references from The Lansinoh website and the Stanford Children's website)

Image: https://buddhabellybirth.com/single-post/2016/06/08/the-love-hormone-oxytocin


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