Baby Bonding and the Love Hormone

Bonding with your baby may seem like it should come naturally. But as many as ten to 20 percent of new moms deal with postpartum depression and that could impact their baby’s development.

A new study aims to see how the so-called love hormone could help.

Aviva Zito loves being a mom. But when her fourth child Zeke was born, she admits it was a rocky start.

“Your hormones obviously are still out of whack," said Zito. "You cry easily.”

Nancy Aaron Jones, Ph.D., a child psychologist at Florida Atlantic University’s Department of Psychology and Behavioral Neuroscience in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, wanted to know how a baby’s physiology, behavior and interactions with their mother change depending on whether the mother is depressed.

But how can you measure a baby’s mood?

“They call oxytocin the love hormone. We know that in mothers it’s elevated, but what we are specifically looking at in this study is how that changes with the mother’s feeding and touch pattern, but also the baby’s,” said Aaron Jones.

She and her lab team take urine samples from mom and baby to measure oxytocin levels. They also monitor changes in the baby’s brain waves with a specially designed EEG cap.

So far, they're seeing some interesting results.

“What we specifically found is that mothers who breast feed are bonding and their babies are showing some of the same physiology as mothers who are not depressed,” detailed Aaron Jones.

Zito said it took some time, but she’s enjoying every moment with Zeke, leading to a better bond with baby.

The study team has enrolled 50 moms and babies and hopes to increase that to 200.

Aaron Jones hopes the study will encourage new moms to talk about depression and get the help they need.

For more information, log onto the CDC’s website.

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