New research: Oxytocin released in response to breastfeeding causes milk ejection and induces physiological changes
I love this new systematic review on how the hormone oxytocin affects breastfeeding! The research was by Dr Kerstin Uvnäs Moberg and colleagues who looked at 29 papers including 601 women.
And it includes a wonderful summary of the complex and beautiful interplay between oxytocin, stress levels and breastfeeding.
"Oxytocin is released in response to breastfeeding to cause milk
ejection, and to induce physiological changes to promote milk production
and psychological adaptations to facilitate motherhood. Stress and
medical interventions during birth may influence these effects and
thereby adversely affect the initiation of breastfeeding."
Quoting from from the paper extract by Uvnäs Moberg K et al., PLoS One. 2020
- Breastfeeding induced an immediate
and short lasting (20 minutes) release of oxytocin. The release was
pulsatile early postpartum (5 pulses/10 minutes) and coalesced into a
more protracted rise as lactation proceeded.
- Oxytocin levels were higher
in multiparous versus primiparous women.
- The number of oxytocin pulses
during early breastfeeding was associated with greater milk yield and
longer duration of lactation and was reduced by stress.
- Breastfeeding-induced oxytocin release was associated with elevated
prolactin levels; lowered ACTH and cortisol (stress hormones) and
somatostatin (a gastrointestinal hormone) levels; enhanced sociability;
and reduced anxiety, suggesting that oxytocin induces physiological and
psychological adaptations in the mother.
- Mechanical breast pumping, but
not bottle-feeding was associated with oxytocin and prolactin release
and decreased stress levels.
- Emergency caesarean section reduced
oxytocin and prolactin release in response to breastfeeding and also
maternal mental adaptations.
- Epidural analgesia reduced prolactin and
mental adaptation, whereas infusions of synthetic oxytocin increased
prolactin and mental adaptation.
- Oxytocin infusion also restored negative effects induced by caesarean section and epidural analgesia.
Uvnäs Moberg K, Ekström-Bergström A, Buckley S, et al. Maternal plasma
levels of oxytocin during breastfeeding-A systematic review.
PLoS One. 2020;15(8):e0235806. Published 2020 Aug 5. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0235806 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC74060...
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