Oxytocin and Baby’s Brain

Assumption: Maternal oxytocin benefits mom, but has no direct effect on baby.

FALSE
(Note: The featured study was done on rats, so further research is needed to see if it is true for human brains.)  It appears from this study that oxytocin, the hormone that governs labor,  breastfeeding, and attachment; has a direct affect on a baby’s brain.  During birth, when the baby puts pressure on the cervix, oxytocin is released and the baby receives the hormone through the placenta.  The oxytocin appears to actually slow down the brain and “silence” nerve cells.  Because of this affect, birth itself has less of a traumatic effect on the baby and the baby can actually tolerate oxygen deprivation for up to an hour because the energy needs are reduced.

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/314/5806/1788

My Views:
What a neat finding!  I love it when the researchers discover more ways in which our bodies help us.  One hormone that can do so many positive things… and more being discovered!  It is truly amazing the many ways in which moms and babies are connected physically as well as emotionally.  And oxytocin is involved in both!  It is also important to note that synthetic oxytocin (pitocin) is not the same as naturally occuring oxytocin.  Maybe that gives me a topic to research for later this week!

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Skin to Skin Contact

Assumption: Mother and baby having skin to skin contact following birth is a good thing for both.

TRUE
1,925 women and babies were studied.  Positive results include breastfeeding initiation and duration, attachment behaviors in moms, less crying in infants, and greater cardio-respiratory stability in pre-term infants.  No adverse effects were seen.

http://www2.cochrane.org/reviews/en/ab003519.html

My Views:
As a mom I know the great peace I felt holding my babies immediately after birth.  I believe this is something that both moms and babies crave.  I don’t want to discount the dads in this either, though.  Although they were not part of these studies, I know that holding a newborn skin to skin provides a connected and warm feeling for dads when mom is unavailable due to stitching, recovery, etc.  There is nothing sweeter than the feel of a newborn’s soft skin and no more comforting place for baby to be than against mom or dad’s skin, listening to a heartbeat.  I love it when scientific studies tell us what we intuitively knew!