There are two main breastfeeding hormones released during nursing,
and they both serve distinct purposes for the mother and baby.
Oxytocin and prolactin are the hormones produced during
breastfeeding that work together to make milk, establish a letdown, and
keep up with the supply and demand of a nursing infant.
Production of prolactin is stimulated by the baby sucking at the breast, and its primary function is to make more milk.
Breastfeeding hormones are an important part of keeping up your
milk supply. Every time your child nurses, it sends the signal to your
body that more milk is needed, and more prolactin is produced.
Obviously, prolactin works more in the mother’s body, but the baby
reaps the benefits of it's work when supply goes up and he or she gets
One thing to keep in mind is that prolactin also inhibits
ovulation in the mother. This is where the common misconception comes
from that breastfeeding is a reliable form of contraception. While it is
true that hormones and breastfeeding may
delay the return of your menstrual cycle
, it is very possible to become pregnant while breastfeeding.
Oxytocin is another one of the important breastfeeding hormones.
The production of oxytocin is also caused by an infant’s suckling, but
instead of making milk, it is responsible for the milk ejection reflect,
also known as the “let down.” The milk ejection reflex works as a
reward for all of the baby’s hard work. It also causes uterine
contractions, which is one reason why nursing is particularly helpful
directly after child birth. The oxytocin produced helps the mother’s
uterus contract and return to its prepregnancy size.
Oxytocin is also an important part of the mother and infant
It is the hormone that is also released during other loving behaviors
that makes us feel good about a person. The surge of oxytocin while
nursing is one of the ways that the mother falls in love with her baby,
and the baby benefits as well because the mother is more likely to
interact and care for the infant.
Hormones and breastfeeding and depression
Oxytocin is also a powerful antidepressant.
, also known as PPD, is a common condition caused by hormone
fluctuations and other changes after childbirth. These hormones can be a
powerful tool against PPD. Successful nursing that releases oxytocin
has been shown to increase mood and satisfaction in mothers.
By Katelynne Shepard
other pages on "breastfeeding problems" in connection with this page on breastfeeding hormones
- How is breast milk produced?
- Inside the lactating breast
- Hormones associated with breastfeeding explained in more detail.
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