Oxytocin: How and Why to Activate the Snuggle Hormone with your Newborn
It’s obvious how much your baby loves to be close to you.
Their drive to snuggle, snooze, and be calmed in close contact is adorable, but more than just a want – it’s a biologically driven need. Babies are wired to seek closeness to ramp up the production of nature’s bond-making, stress-busting, well-being lifting wonder chemical, oxytocin.
Oxytocin, also known as the “snuggle hormone,” originates in the pituitary gland at the base of our brains. When it’s released, it drives caretaking, fuels milk production, promotes feelings of safety, and encourages human bonding.
Here are three true things you may or may not know about the snuggle hormone:
1. Oxytocin plays a crucial role in labor and breastfeeding. It’s oxytocin that drives labor contractions, and allows the uterus to contract after birth. It triggers the milk “let down” response when stimulated by a nursing infant, and is responsible for those unprecedented love sensations that new parents report. While oxytocin is known for its role in promoting mother/baby bonding, it’s a lesser-known hero contributor to another essential parenting role – fatherhood.
2. Oxytocin helps father’s bond.Studies have repeatedly shown that oxytocin helps to form and secure emotional bonds for mothers AND fathers. Skin-to-skin time and snuggles ramp up oxytocin levels for both parents, but biologically male brains seem to see an even greater increase in oxytocin when they play with and talk to baby. Oxytocin helps both parents be more in tune with baby’s needs and respond better to their cues.
3. Oxytocin helps forge emotional memory. Some scientists think oxytocin works a bit like nervous system glue for the emotions that accompany our earliest bonds. As you and baby snuggle and create loving, happy #dadadamoments, you’re helping them lock in those emotional connections to ideas like “parent” and “home.” Parents who had difficult childhoods may find there are some hard emotions tied to oxytocin, but you and baby have the opportunity to form new pathways and make new memories every single day, creating positive connections for both of you.
1. Make sure parents get plenty of time to interact with baby immediately after birth. That might mean protecting the first couple weeks of your newborn’s life as “family time,” or making sure dad takes on equal share of the newborn caretaking. Skin-to-skin contact, especially in the first few days, is a fantastic place to start.
2.Create a designated “snuggle spot.” For us, it’s always the Weeble Rocker – sleek enough to look at home anywhere in your house, cleverly designed for near-silent rocking, and comfy enough to support hours of quality cuddle time. Remember, you can’t spoil a newborn – enjoy every single snuggle with absolute peace of mind.
Wishing you a very cuddly first year of parenthood, loves!