While living in Spain this year, I haven’t gotten to hang out with many newborn babies and their moms. I miss them - really, deeply, and viscerally.
A couple of weeks ago, though, I got to spend a morning with a 6-week old and her mama in order to film some demonstrations of baby care techniques for my upcoming online course, Life Beyond Birth 101. The rest of the day and into the next I felt so GOOD! The time we spent together was fun; we had a good time and laughed a lot. I was pleased that the baby cooperated so well, and that I could bring the family a big pot of kitchari as a way of saying thank you.
As my husband (aka my camera man) and I walked away from their apartment, I was filled with a sense of peace and purpose. Being present at the vulnerable and sacred time just after a baby’s birth is my life’s calling. It is constantly teaching me AND, I realized, giving me ‘hits’ of oxytocin.
This winter has been a little dark for me emotionally, and getting to hold, soothe, and coo with a newborn shook me out of it. Could it be that the work I have been doing over the last decade has helped my mental health?
Oxytocin is the ‘love hormone’ that is super-high when we are head-over-heels for someone. It also peaks just after childbirth, and in orgasm. It promotes feelings of wellbeing, connection, and satisfaction. Oxytocin enhances optimism, trust, mastery, and self esteem, AND there are new studies showing that oxytocin influences what is going on in the gut and can relieve symptoms of food sensitivities, autoimmune disorders, and systemic infections.
“How,” you might ask, “do I get more of this good stuff in my life?”
Well, newborn babies exude the stuff! Holding one for a few minutes can boost your oxytocin palpably, and you get even more of a hit if you sniff the top of the baby’s head!
AND I just happen to have a list of Oxytocin Boostersthat I share with postpartum students and clients:
Laughter – watch funny movies, invite your hilarious friend over, etc.
Warmth – all about feeling comfortable and cozy
Touch – skin on skin with baby, partner, massage
Relaxation – meditation, yoga, gentle exercise, singing, bath, movie, breathing…
Food – warm, mushy, oily, sweet, rich food sends the message of abundance to your body
Visitors – We need to feel the love BUT visitors should be people who you are comfortable breastfeeding in front of, who don’t need you to make small talk with them, and who will actually help
There are 2 main Oxytocin Busters. Do what you can to avoid them during late pregnancy and postpartum.
Stress – overwhelm, vigilance zap oxytocin. Delegate everything you possibly can.
Thinking – neocortex suppresses primitive brain that learns through feeling and experiencing. Don’t google everything, or treat your baby or postpartum as a research topic. Tune into your intuition.
Now that you are well acquainted with this hormone of love and connection, WHAT CAN YOU DO TO ADD MORE OXYTOCIN TO YOUR LIFE? Make a list and put it where you can see it daily. Remind yourself to avoid the busters and include more boosters.
This Oxytocin is GOOD STUFF! I’m already scheming about how to get my next hit…