As joyful and wondrous as it is, there’s no doubt that the holiday season also introduces new stress. Holiday gatherings, finding just the right gifts for each person, extra cooking and finding meaningful ways to celebrate are only a few of the stressors during this “magical” time of year. When you’re a new mom, the pressure may be even greater. But we’re here to illuminate the shocking ways breastfeeding helps you cope with holiday stress for a more peaceful, enjoyable season.
Your to-do list is growing but you’re trying to keep your eye on the biggest priority, the new bundle of joy in your life. Taking care of this precious little being is hard work and will take up most of your time. This is perhaps leaving you stressed and anxious about the holiday season ahead. Luckily one amazing way to relax and reduce stress is an activity you do with your baby many times a day: breastfeeding.
Oxytocin and Prolactin: Breastfeeding and Stress Relief Hormones
Breastfeeding is chock full of benefits for new moms. Among them is stress relief. Beyond the fact that human touch is a basic need every person craves – yes, both you and your baby – breast milk is produced from two incredible hormones that help you relax, oxytocin and prolactin.
During pregnancy the brain increases oxytocin receptors so when the hormone kicks in during labor and breastfeeding your body is highly responsive to it. Oxytocin helps create let-downs that push breast milk to the nipple during feedings. It also aids in making breastfeeding and motherhood feel more natural by reorganizing nerves. It’s the body’s way of connecting you to your baby, especially through each other’s odor.
Oxytocin is known to produce feelings of tranquility for both babies and mothers. It can be stimulated whenever you touch your baby but increases by frequent skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding.
Prolactin is another hormone involved in breast milk production. It’s also a hormone that makes you drowsy, which is why you may feel sleepy during or after breastfeeding. Prolactin contributes to maternal instincts and care-giving behaviors. Interestingly, in non-parents prolactin may cause stress but in parents it helps you become more protective and nurturing.
Breastfeeding and Coping with Holiday Stress
Based on the phenomenal and unique ways oxytocin and prolactin support new moms, you can see that the more you breastfeed and cuddle your baby, the more feelings of calmness and well-being you can achieve. Plus, the ways your brain began reorganizing during pregnancy continue to develop so you’ll have keen maternal instincts to be a better and more confident mom.
Studies show breastfeeding moms experience less postpartum depression and anxiety, thanks to oxytocin and prolactin. While the holidays may add to your plate, your initial stress levels will be lower. With the added benefit that breastfeeding helps you cope with holiday stress, you may actually be better off than previous years.
Of course we can’t forget the joy that celebrating holidays with your new baby brings. Experiencing many firsts and sharing traditions may itself help elevate your mood and reduce stress.
It’s important for new moms to remember a few things during the holiday season. Perfection is unattainable so aim for happiness instead. Low key is a great way to celebrate your first holiday season with a new baby. Also, take care of yourself by eating a nutritious diet, sleeping as much as possible and getting a little exercise when you can.
A final thought: If your holiday festivities start getting stressful, take a breastfeeding time out. Excuse yourself from the chaos and slip into a more peaceful state in a quiet, comfortable breastfeeding spot where you and your baby can relax, replenish and rediscover the cheer of the holiday season.
Sources: Breastfeeding Problems and Baby Reference
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