When your freshly born baby is brought immediately to your chest, you'll get a huge rush of oxytocin. In addition to causing your uterus to continue to contract, it will also trigger milk production along with prolactin - the mothering hormone. This powerful hormone cocktail is what causes you to find your baby to be completely irresistible and turns on your instincts to nurture and protect your sweet baby. Oxytocin & prolactin are key to helping you take on their new role as a mother.
If you're eager to facilitate bonding in the best way possible, immediate skin-to-skin contact and on demand breastfeeding is the best way to stimulate your body’s natural oxytocin production after birth. As your baby suckles at your breast it will signal your body to release more oxytocin and will encourage to connect to your baby. Skin-to-sking contact and latching at the breast also helps your baby to release his or her own oxytocin.
The benefits of skin-to-skin contact go beyond those first few hours and days. We recommend continuing skin-to-skin for several weeks, whether or not you choose to breastfeed. This direct contact helps regulate your baby's temperature, breathing, and cortisol levels. Additionally, it can help promote lactation, hormone regulation, and feelings of euphoria in your body too!
The Fourth Trimester
While there is plenty you can do to aid bonding through stimulating oxytocin and positive thoughts and emotions, externally you have even more influence. Your choices with your time, your environment, and your attention have lasting impacts on the bond you will have with your baby. This is true for adoptive parents as well!
It is for this reason that we encourage you to put down the cell phone and shut off the TV while you are bonding with your baby. The blue light that emits from these electronic devices can actually inhibit oxytocin flow and create more stress in your life. Creating a calming, relaxing, oxytocin-promoting cave is one of our favorite tips to share with our postpartum doula clients. Find a serene space in your home with a comfy chair, some natural light and make this your bonding spot. This is a place where you can get away from the noise and just chill with your baby.
Be gentle with yourself as you adjust to the realities of having a new baby. Go at a slow pace as you allow your body to recover from birth and allow your baby to acclimate to his or her new surroundings. Be mindful of external sources of stress and do everything you can to eliminate those from your life... at least for the time being.