The breastfeeding hormones may have quite strong effects on new, breastfeeding mom. Why? And what can Dad do to help?
However great the beginning of parenthood may be, it is also marked by a great deal of adjustments. One of the adjustments – if mom breastfeeds – is the switch from pregnancy hormones to breastfeeding hormones ruling her body. Some of the not-so-great effects of bathing in breastfeeding hormones are mood swings, anxiety, unhappiness, and regret. Add to this the inevitable sleep deprivation and as a new dad, you may no longer even recognize your partner.
You may also begin to start feeling a little panicky yourself.
Well, knowing what’s going on to understand better and maybe even laugh together at the misery sure helps. And this too shall pass to quote the wise old Persian poets.
The Breastfeeding Hormones – The What, Why and What To Do
The Hormones Explained
Breastfeeding hormones are one of the causes of the sometimes quite dramatic transformation in your partner after giving birth. Despite the fact these changes may cause you some stress, there are explanations for these mood swings and emotions. Let’s take a look at the key breastfeeding hormones and their role in breastfeeding and overall effects on mom.
- Prolactin is also often called the “mothering hormone”. It can also be called the “parenting hormone” as dads produce Prolactin as well. Although Prolactin is released in all healthy people during sleep, its major function is as the hormone responsible for stimulating breast milk production. This hormone increases during pregnancy and helps add to the growth of breast tissue. Prolactin levels continue to rise during breastfeeding when the nipple is stimulated.
Besides promoting milk production and breastfeeding, Prolactin also tends to relax mothers as well. Interestingly enough, Prolactin causes a reduction in mothers and fathers testosterone levels, which in turn reduces their libido. You can learn more about libido and breastfeeding here.
- Oxytocin is the other important breastfeeding hormone. If Prolactin is the “mothering hormone”, than Oxytocin is the “bonding hormone”. Oxytocin has important effects on both the breasts and the uterus. In terms of the breasts, oxytocin is necessary for the let-down or milk-ejection reflex to occur. The baby suckling at the breast stimulates this process.
This hormone is also important for contracting the muscle of the uterus during and after birth. This process in the muscles helps to deliver the baby, the placenta and, later, to shrink the uterus back to its normal size.
Despite all the adjustments, the upheaval of new emotions, the chronic sleep deprivation and countless other new changes in your life, this is really the time for a new dad to shine. If you think of new parenthood as a new beginning, think of breastfeeding of your child as a foundation to this beginning.
As a result, there are many things dads can do to support and help the building of this new foundation:
- Help your partner get as much sleep as possible. Nursing is very tiring for new moms. Encourage your partner to rest and nap as much as possible. For some useful tips on how to maximize a new mom’s sleep, click here. And find tips to help your baby sleep better here.
- Take over many of your partner’s usual roles and household responsibilities. Any extra help you can do during this time will go a long way. In my home, my wife always did the dishes and loaded the dishwasher. After the birth of our daughter, I took over that role in the household. It helped show my wife I cared about her and that she wasn’t taken for granted.
- Give your wife steady praise and encouragement. Point out that she is doing a great job and is already a great mother.
- Become involved and bond with your baby. Just because your wife is breastfeeding doesn’t mean that you are left out. There are many things you can do. See this article for tips about how new dads can bond with your baby.
Despite all the changes and stresses occurring from breastfeeding hormones, estrogen, testosterone, and other hormones, it won’t last forever. If things seem to get really distressful however, it’s important to remember there is help out there. Don’t be afraid to ask friends, your medical provider, or the local La Leche League program for assistance. You can also share your situation here be leaving a comment below.