Friday, August 15, 2008

How Breastfeeding Enhances Mother-Child Bonding



Scientists have long known that the mother's brain is flooded with oxytocin when breastfeeding. But until recently, they had been puzzled as to how enough oxytocin was produced to alter the mother's moods. Now they know.

A study published on July 18, 2008 at the Public Library of Science Computational Biology found that breastfeeding mobilizes more than the usual brain cells that secrete oxytocin. Breastfeeding puts dendrites to work as well to secrete oxytocin.

Oxytocin, which is also secreted during labor and sexual intercourse, is also known as the "love hormone". It increases feelings of trust, relaxation and love. It has a sedative effect. No wonder many women report feeling drowsy while breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding also fosters closeness between mother and child in other ways. It enables Mommy and baby to have more physical and skin-to-skin contact. Mothers and babies gaze into each other's eyes for extended periods of time while breastfeeding. Mothers also tend to interact in other ways with their babies when breastfeeding.

In contrast, bottle-fed babies can easily be passed on to other people to be fed -- making it easier for Mom to be separated from baby - and worse be fed without any human contact at all, through a bottle prop.

While breastfeeding has been shown in several studies to help immensely with mother-child bonding, it is not a necessary condition for bonding to occur. However, those who bottle feed can and should take the following lessons from breastfeeding to foster a stronger bond with their children:
  • be attentive to your child's cues and respond to them promptly
  • seek ways to be physically close and affectionate to your child in appropriate ways
  • make plenty of eye contact with your child
  • spend time with your child
  • relax and trust in your ability to be a good mother to your child
Resources:

PLOS Computation Biology, July 2008

3 comments:

clarissa said...

I am searching for studies that link breastfeeding to mother-infant bonding. Though they are theoretically correlated (and my own experience supports this) I am having a hard time finding empirical research to validate this. What are the numerous studies linking breastfeeding and mother-infant bonding that you reference?

Nursing Bras said...

I think it's super important to breastfeed. Skin to skin contact is sooo important and breastfeeding is the best way to achieve this (and et your little one off to sleep).
:-)

a Baker said...

I actually breastfeed up to 18 months,and agree that is is very important for bonding and also security for the little one :)Its both physically and mentally healthy. I am also all for co-sleeping.