Are you an excited mother-to-be, suddenly feeling anxious as your due date draws near, asking yourself whether you will actually be a good mother? Whether you will bond with your tiny, fragile newborn?
You will have help bringing your child into the world and becoming the mom you want to be. From your hormones.
The love connectionHormones have a bad reputation when it comes to childbirth because some drop sharply at this time, contributing to postpartum depression. But endorphins, adrenaline, prolactin and oxytocin are the good guys. They play a role in:
• Preparing your body to give birth
• Triggering labor
• Preparing your baby for life outside your body
• Getting both of you ready for breastfeeding
Oxytocin is the standout when it comes to mother-baby attachment. The “love hormone,” as it’s often called, plays a role in trust and maternal bonding. Oxytocin can ease the stress you and your child may feel, and help comfort your infant in her new surroundings.
The “magical hour”Oxytocin kicks off labor by stimulating the uterine muscles to contract. It does some of its most important work immediately after birth during what’s called the “magical hour.” According to research, bonding begins with the first touches, sounds and eye contact between you and your newborn. Many new moms feel a flood of emotions at this time, and oxytocin stimulates these nurturing feelings.
Even more oxytocin is released in your body when you hold your child skin-to-skin by placing her naked body on your bare chest. Oxytocin also moves milk to your breasts, and researchers have found that moms who cuddle with their infants skin-to-skin are more likely to breastfeed exclusively and for a longer time.
How your baby triggers oxytocin
Researchers in Sweden videotaped 28 babies during their first hours after birth and found that during the first hour and 10 minutes, the newborns generally followed this pattern:
• Cried for a couple of minutes
• Relaxed briefly and then gradually became alert, opening their eyes and moving their heads and mouths
• Began moving their arms and legs, rooting and making soliciting, or “hungry,” sounds as they looked at their mother’s face and breasts
• Took a break and slept a bit
• Crawled to their mother’s breasts and suckled them, (triggering oxytocin to release milk)
• Went back to sleep
Bonding as a building block
The “magical hour” is part of bonding and attachment, and your oxytocin plays a crucial role. It may be many months until you see your child’s personality and quirks emerge, but bonding will help lay the foundation for your relationship. A strong attachment will teach your child to trust you and later others, develop a positive sense of self and build healthy relationships.
So if you’re worried about whether you will be a good mom, remember your oxytocin. It will be there to help.
Talk to your OB-GYN or midwife about how skin-to-skin cuddling immediately after birth can help you bond with your child. Swedish Pregnancy and Childbirth services support this practice, and Swedish has earned the designation “baby-friendly” hospital.
A great resource for pregnancy through your child’s first year is the Circle by Swedish app. Download this app at no cost to tap into a network of resources and tools for expectant moms.
If you choose to breastfeed, the Lytle Center for Pregnancy and Newborns offers support for new moms.
More from the Swedish blog on pregnancy, childbirth and life as a new parent:
Health apps for moms-to-be and parents on the go
Doula program for all women, no matter their delivery plans
Scary thoughts after having a baby? We can help
Newborn hearing screenings and early intervention
When to postpone newborn circumcision