Breastfeeding – the Hormone Connection

Breast is best – as I’ve posted. OK But why? There are a bunch of reasons as to why. Most of which I’m sure you already know or could have guessed. Like bonding with your baby, giving physical comfort and emotional support. But breastfeeding also enables a higher production of hormones needed to help get and keep you both on track after birth.

Oxytocin – You may know this hormone relates to getting labour started (in a big, powerful hurry). It also is needed for the ‘letdown reflex’ so milk production reaches the nipple. Another function of oxytocin is to help the uterus contract after birth and return to its normal size and shape. This process can be rather painful and surprising. But it is needed to assist the uterus with clotting where the placenta had been attached. This occurs in the postpartum time period thereby reducing postpartum bleeding. Research has shown that oxytocin is required for maternal behavior, empathy and trust in general while reducing fear. (This is a really important side benefit.  Every new mom knows that imagination can be a terrible thing when it comes to newborns.  All sorts of scenarios involving your baby and bizarre accidents suddenly become common thoughts.  Oxytocin moves those thoughts from the fore.)

Prolactin – This hormone causes the breast to fill with milk between feeds via the process of lactogenesis. This is also the prime reason why the breasts enlarge during pregnancy. Prolactin is also responsible for Witch’s milk. Witch’s milk is the milky secretion that emerges from a newborn’s nipple(s). This can happen in male or female babies and is not a cause for concern as it is due to the mother’s circulating prolactin levels prior to childbirth.

Bottom line, the body is prepared to perform this function for sustaining your healthy baby.  From experience, I know that the first few weeks are the difficult part.  If you can push past this time, you’ll be able to keep it going for as long as you feel you are comfortable doing it – 2 years or 6 months or whatever.  And like pregnancy, it ends.  Regardless of how much you love or resent or are indifferent to the experience, it will end.  For me, remembering that helps me to make decisions that I won’t regret later.  It is every mom’s choice based on what’s going on in her family life.  Don’t let others pressure you about your baby.  You know what’s best in your own heart – following it will keep you true to yourself.  Another way to maintain happiness.

Reposted with modifications from You Get Well Soon Inc.

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About YouGetWellSoon

I'm a Calgary mom who left a life of research and teaching to stay at home and raise my children. I'm also a business owner: YouGetWellSoon.
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