It seems that fewer and fewer moms are choosing to breastfeed after childbearing these days. Everything from strange looks and peer comments – “are you still breastfeeding?” to women returning to work quicker than in previous years have become contributing factors to shorter breastfeeding times in new mothers today. However, maybe you didn’t know that breastfeeding can do a lot more for babies AND moms than once thought including inducing bliss-like states. Believe me, you want mothers in bliss and nowhere else.
We have long been informed about the benefits of breastfeeding for infants from better immunity to greater bonding. Did you know that breastfeeding has also been linked to higher IQ’s in children? That’s right, babies who are breastfed generally exhibit a broader vocabulary and quicker mental development than their non-breastfed buddies. If that doesn’t make a mommy happy I don’t know what does. But seriously. Breastfeeding releases oxytocin in the mother – what is also known as the ‘love hormone’, the same hormone necessary for childbirth. It is this hormone that causes the uterus to return to its regular size after childbearing and can account for the initial pains of breastfeeding.
Oxytocin is critical in avoiding postpartum depression as it helps keep the mood elevated and adrenaline levels low. Yes, breastfeeding can keep a new mommy in a more blissful state than a mommy choosing to bottle feed. Oxytocin is not only produced during childbirth, love and breastfeeding though, touch is an important factor in releasing this blissful hormone.
Snuggling that little one to your chest – skin to skin – is part of the bliss effect, as is the case when couples hug, kiss and have sex. Oxytocin is released when we get a really good embrace and when that handshake turns into a hand hold. We release oxytocin while watching a good tear-jerker and while dancing. Even taking a good friend out to dinner and treating them seems to cause this wonderful hormone to be let loose in our system.
New mothers can use all the blissful feelings available to be had -as often those long sleepless nights and constant demand for attention can become exhausting and a bit overwhelming even for second and third time mama’s. Breastfeeding coupled with care from loved ones can help new moms feel rejuvenated, renewed and refreshed – which makes the whole world happy.
If you think about it – none of us would be here without a mother. The way our mother felt or feels during those early stages of our lives most likely influenced us on a very subconscious level – how we feel about ourselves, how well we receive love and how easy it is for us to bond with other humans.
As adults, we can support the next generation by encouraging healthy relationships between mothers and their newborns. For example, talk about how beautiful breastfeeding is to your pregnant friends. Give a supportive touch to a new mother, offer to buy them a meal. Employers can go out of their way to provide not only space, but time for mothers to nurse and make it a point to allow moms to bond with their babies by adjusting schedules as needed. After all, we are an over-worked, under-loved people. The more we can amplify actions and attitudes which support the development of love, confidence and healthy interactions, the greater we will be as individuals and as a nation.
For friends and relatives, make sure it is clear that you are not embarrassed to be around breastfeeding, but instead encourage and support it. For new mothers, take a conscious stand to step into breastfeeding as a healthy, blissful act for both you and your baby and choose not to feel awkward around others for it.
Breastfeeding can be a glorious time of bonding, immune support and bliss for mothers and babies as it was designed to be. As a society we can shift our attitudes of work, social awkwardness and conversation to include acceptance of this beautiful life-affirming act and by doing so- benefit the whole world.
Written by: Stasia Bliss