What is Oxytocin, how can it help breastfeeding/depression?

How keeping your baby close can help with breastfeeding and drive away postnatal depression. What is Oxytocin?

As new mothers, we are given an entire variety of well-wishing advice. Breastfeed – its best for baby. Bottle feed – it’s easier. Hold your baby lots. Don’t let your baby get used to being held all the time. But how much of this is backed up with actual research?

When Shabs first had her baby she struggled to breastfeed and so visited her local breastfeeding group. One of the pieces of advice she was given by the advisors was to hold the baby skin-to-skin. This made no sense to her and when she asked why she needed to do this, she was told: “because it will help”. However, they couldn’t explain beyond this.

Have you ever been told that to cure your hiccups you need to stand upside down, cover your nose and ears then drink some water “because it will help”? Did you actually do it? Probably not, because you couldn’t see the logic so you ignored it and quickly moved onto the next thing on your list which you heard may help.

She didn’t realise it at the time but Shabs was suffering from Postnatal Depression and unfortunately disregarded this crucial piece of advice. Why? Because nobody had the understanding and knowledge themselves to explain why it was so important.


Now let us tell you exactly why skin to skin with your baby will not only help you to breastfeed, but may also help to combat your postnatal depression.


Our bodies are an incredible thing. In this instance, we owe this miracle to a hormone called Oxytocin. Oxytocin is produced in your hypothalamus, and released when you do anything in the “family way” so to speak. It is produced when you make love, labour and birth your baby, breastfeed, have an emotional connection with somebody, even cuddle.

It is also known as the “love hormone” or the “bonding hormone”. Functionally, it is released at these times in order to aid reproductive functions, which helps the human race to not die out.

The Love Hormone

When you hold your baby in a skin-to-skin manner, your body produces the chemical Oxytocin. The oxytocin leads to a more emotional response and therefore you feel a greater level of bonding. Your body needs to feel your baby close in order to perform these emotional responses.

This “love hormone” enables you to feel content and in love with your baby even when you’re sleep deprived, and is also the thing that keeps away depression. It is the feel-good factor! But that is not all it does. This hormone, along with the baby suckling on your breast, will tell your body to produce more milk. And every time your baby is on your skin, your body will do what it feels it needs to do for your baby, which produces more milk!

This is why using the Amawrap is so great as it allows full contact between you and baby and therefore a rush of this amazing hormone, in the most comfortable way.

When you are told to not pick up your baby too often for fear that “they will get used to it”, your body will not produce the oxytocin it needs to be able to lactate, or bond with your baby, which can be a factor leading to postnatal depression.

This also means that while breastfeeding is possible, it may become that little bit more difficult. Why should your body produce breastmilk if it cannot detect a baby to produce milk for? Why should your body attempt to bond with something that it cannot feel?

Ladies, Hold Your Baby Close

If you are at home, you can help to boost your breastmilk by keeping your child in nothing but a nappy, straight onto your bare chest. You can use your wrap to do this, and get on with whatever else you need to do while nature performs this miracle.

When Shabs first began using a wrap it was more for convenience purposes as she knew nothing about why skin to skin was so important, but in her words “When you look down to find that your baby has fallen asleep on your chest, you feel the most amazing sense of peace.”

Oxytocin at work?

We’ll let you decide.


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