Oxytocin and your baby’s amazing brain

Your baby’s brain is still very much a ‘work in progress’ when he or she is born and a huge amount of brain development continues in the first 2 years of life. We know that interaction between babies and parents has a long term and lasting impact on a baby’s social and emotional development.

All babies have needs for comfort, closeness and food, and responding to these needs makes babies feel safe, loved and secure. Keep your baby close and enjoy spending time with her. Talk and sing to her, and take time to pause and listen for her to copy you and respond to you. Hold her in skin contact, try carrying her in a sling and don’t leave her to cry. Every time you cuddle your baby, smile with her, listen to and talk to her calmly and lovingly, and feed her promptly as often and for as long as she needs, her young brain releases Oxytocin, a hormone that helps her brain to grow.

Oxytocin is a feel-good hormone, which is released in you too when you cuddle your baby, and it also makes you feel calm and happy and helps you bond closely with your baby.

Responding to her needs in this way will help her grow into a secure, confident toddler and child, ready to cope with temporary separation from you (e.g. when she goes to nursery or when you go to work) and ready to keep learning and growing!

As your baby grows and you all get to know each other better, you become the expert in the care of your baby. As parents and other close family and friends, you are the people your baby most loves to spend time with. He or she does not need lots of expensive toys or gadgets – you are the most important carer, teacher and role model your child will ever have, and the stories you read with your child, the songs you sing together and the games you play help with learning, familiarity and adventure.

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