Friday, June 4, 2010
A hug from mom can save the day
Recently we've been having a lot of stress in our home. Sadie doesn't like to nap. Trying to move Sadie into her own room has caused some sleep regressions. Mommy and Daddy don't get enough sleep. Car screaming leading to hermit-like tendencies and cabin fever. And we've even had a couple of not-feel-so-good days, I think (it's hard to tell when they're this little sometimes exactly why they're crying!). The hardest part is trying to get Sadie to calm down in my arms when I'm stressed too, or getting Sadie to sleep soundly when I am anxious to have some time to myself. I've also noticed that it's hard to calm her down when we go somewhere because she probably feels my stress from being in the car with a screaming baby, so it's helpful if we're meeting someone for them to immediately take her and calm her down. Brian mentioned to me in the middle of the night when Sadie WASN'T sleeping, but screaming instead (not a good time to have this conversation with me, I might add), that she's not going to calm down until I calm down. That's really hard to do though when it's 1:00am and I've been fighting her to go to sleep since 7:15!! Oddly enough, this article came to his email inbox the NEXT MORNING from WebMD. You can read the entire thing by clicking the link, but I will recap basically what it says and what that means for our household and me, specifically.
The article talks about a study done with mothers and daughters regarding the stress hormone, cortisol, and it's antithesis, oxytocin (which they refer to as the "cuddle hormone"). What they did in this study is take a bunch of girls and stress them out, either by asking them to do complicated math problems in front of an audience, or asking them to give a speech to a group of strangers. Then they tested their saliva for cortisol. As you can imagine, it was through the roof!! After they got them all stressed out, they took a third and let them get a nice, long hug from mom, another third talked to mom on the phone, and a final third watched a film that was emotionally neutral. Then they tested again, but this time for both hormones.
The findings reported that physical touch calmed these girls down immediately, a conversation on the phone with mom caused cortisol levels to also drop pretty quickly, but the ones who watched the movie showed not much change at all (wouldn't you hate to be in that group?! Just thinking about those girls stresses me out!! ha!). These results seemed to be huge for scientists because up until now, they thought oxytocin was only released through physical touch/physical bonding. Now they can see that just talking to mom on the phone, hearing her voice, helps with stress.
So what? So, I have a baby with a high stress level...which could or could not be due to her brain injury, because I tend to also get stressed out easily too. This is the way I've always been. I remember having anxiety attacks when I was in elementary school...maybe having me talk to my mom on the phone was the best thing they could do for me at that time! The school nurse thought I needed to be scolded back into behaving and that's probably why she called my mom, little did she know that I maybe just needed mom to tell me everything's gonna be all right. In fact, I often tell Brian I just need a hug (I know he's not my mom, but it still helps) or to be told it's all going to be okay. So, my baby may have just inherited this personality trait from me, who knows. The fact is that she needs ME to NOT be stressed out when she is (easier said than done) so that when we touch our cortisol levels can decrease and our oxytocin levels increase.
Nursing is a really good way to do this. When you have a baby, it's the hormone, oxytocin, that your body creates to help your uterus contract. And that's why it's so important to have that skin to skin contact and nursing contact right away, so that more oxytocin is released, causing you to birth the placenta. That skin to skin and nursing also creates that bonding with your baby, which is a result of the oxytocin in baby and mama. Nursing is also important those first few weeks post partum because the release of the oxytocin helps to shrink your uterus. So, I don't know about other moms, but when my baby is crying, my first instinct is to nurse her. I think I instinctively know that nursing releases that "cuddle hormone" and calms me and my baby down. It's not always about eating.
Another thing I realized by reading this article is that, especially through this stressful time in my life, is that it's important to talk to my mom. I've been in a habit of calling my mom anyway almost everyday, but now more than ever, I need to hear her voice. Recently, my mom got a webcam and we've been using skype...even better, right? Just hearing her tell me she wishes she could be here, it'll get better, she would give me a hug if she could, she loves me, etc. seems to make things much better...now I have science to back up what I already knew was true!
So, what does this mean for you? Hug your mom (if she lives nearby and you can just go visit her) or call her on the phone...especially if you're feeling stressed out. Hug your children, especially your daughters. Nurse your babies for as long as you can. And don't ever let anybody tell you you're spoiling your children by comforting them when they're upset!