You've probably heard about all of the positive benefits of cuddling with your baby. The problem? Well, those positives usually revolve around your baby. So, what about you? How a mom might benefit from cuddling is rarely talked about — probably because the moment a woman becomes a mother she's told to think of herself last — but science explains why you should be cuddling your baby more often, and not just for their benefit. Nope, this is all about how you — the exhausted, sleep-deprived, hard-working mom — will benefit from a baby cuddle session.
The benefits of cuddling, beyond the obvious, are all connected to one single hormone, often called the "love hormone," oxytocin. Medical News Today explains, saying, "Oxytocin is a hormone that is made in the brain, in the hypothalamus. It is transported to, and secreted by, the pituitary gland, which is located at the base of the brain." But that's only where the love hormone is made. Once it gets going and starts pumping through your body, it's beyond useful.
Chances are your brain as produced the "love hormone" way before your baby was brought into the world and your regular cuddling sessions became your new normal. In fact, according to Medical News Today, oxytocin is produced during sex, childbirth, and lactation. One researcher even called the hormone "the great facilitator of life." Whoa.
But once you're past the sex, childbirth, and lactation phases of life, oxytocin still has an impact on your body, meaning cuddling with your baby releases that hormone to a few incredible effects. First, according to Live Science, the release of oxytocin helps you bond with your baby, reducing stress and therefore reducing the risk of postpartum problems like depression or anxiety. Oxytocin can also increase your self-esteem, which is particularly important when you're facing a life change as overwhelming as parenthood.
Completely aside from your baby, BioMed Central states that oxytocin also appears to play a role in protecting your intestine from damage. Researchers also found that mice with oxytocin-deficient receptors became obese later in life, even when they were fed what was deemed a "normal" food intake. So, there is some scientific evidence to suggest injections of oxytocin can help "keep weight off." You know, if that's your thing. Personally, I believe every postpartum mom has a hell of a lot more to worry about than "keeping the weight off." Things like self-care and showers and a brand new baby to protect and feed and raise come to mind.
Overall, the levels of oxytocin in your body can help you form attachments with your baby and can help fend off postpartum depression and anxiety. Live Science also makes a point to highlight that oxytocin is known to help break down social barriers, boosting your self-esteem and also boosting your libido, making sex with your partner a little more appealing. And not that sex with your partner is crucial to maintaining a strong relationship, but it certainly can't hurt, especially in those postpartum months, to have a little one-on-one time.
Finally, Live Science states that oxytocin has been found to promote sleep. That is what every single new mom desperately need. So, if you ask me, I say every new mom has the inalienable right to cuddle her baby as often as possible.