The most important part of human interaction is the bond we create with our children. It provides satisfaction and improves the physical and mental health, thus helping us to establish strong emotional attachment.

However, many people don’t know that the positive effects of this special bond occur at biological level. The hormone oxytocin was discovered in 1906. Its name was derived from the Greek language and it means ″swift birth″ since it relates to the large amounts of this hormone that are released during childbirth. It also stimulates the contractions of the uterus during birth and the ejection of milk while breastfeeding.

Oxytocin also regulates the social behaviors that are necessary for reproduction and care, such as the ability to explore the environment and the interaction with others. It supports the bonding between mothers and their babies and affects the maternal behavior. That is why it is also called ″a love molecule″.

The social bonding and love are crucial for human survival since they help the reproduction and enhance the development of our brains by managing anxiety and stress. Human beings are not meant to live in isolation since it may affect their overall health and well-being.

According to the scientists, group exclusion triggers various physical and developmental disorders which in turn increase the risk of premature death.

The function of oxytocin is like a system activator that stimulates the release of other hormones, including dopamine, serotonin, opioids and noradrenaline.

These hormones facilitate different physiological and behavioral effects that are coordinated into some adaptive patterns. The patterns, on the other hand, are influenced by the environmental factors and the external stimuli.

The mother-infant bond

Prenatally

The release of oxytocin starts during the gestational period and it is stimulated by the healthy and strong bonding between the mother and her unborn child.

If the mother experiences some stressful situations during the pregnancy, the child may suffer from behavioral deficits later in the adulthood, since stress affects the oxytocin systems.

Moreover, the bond between stressed mothers and their children can lead to high level of anxiety-like behaviors and aggression later in life caused by the reduced oxytocin levels.

Postnatally

The strong and healthy bond between the mother and her child along with the positive social experiences are crucial for healthy emotional and social development of the infant.

For instance, hugging significantly increases the levels of this hormone, strengthens the immunity, lowers the levels of stress and reduces social deficits in the adulthood.

Actions like skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding can also boost the mother-infant bonding and encourage the release of oxytocin.

If you deprive your children of physical contact, their bodies will stop growing despite the normal intake of nutrients. Hugs and nurturing touches can improve the growth deficiency.

Hugging also keeps your children healthier. It lowers the plasma levels of thyroid hormones, thus speeding up the healing processes.

What’s more, it makes the children more resilient and helps them to deal with their own emotions.
Institutionalized children are rarely touched or handled.

They usually spend 22 hours of day in their cribs. They are fed with propped bottles and they receive minimal care. These children very often suffer from various health issues, including impaired cognitive development.

However, scientists have discovered that when these children received additional 20 minutes of tactile stimulation per day, they scored significantly higher in developmental assessments.

Therefore, make sure you hug your children every day to support their brain development and increase the levels of oxytocin in their bodies.