Book Review: Why Oxytocin Matters

Reviewing Why Oxytocin Matters by Kerstin Uvnas Moberg

I was excited to get my hands on this little book for a number of reasons, most of them unashamedly personal. Coming to this from the perspective of a Lactation Consultant and a mother with a history of very difficult breastfeeding experiences, I am consistently annoyed at the lack of research surrounding the impacts of stress on breastfeeding success, and was looking forward to learning more from an expert in the field.  Unfortunately, I felt that the exploration of this was very minimal, with just one paragraph that states that yes, environmental stressors and internal stresses can inhibit oxytocin release, and that breastfeeding mothers should aim for a calm and familiar environment in order to relax and optimise oxytocin release. There is later a short scientific explanation of the way that stress hormones are reduced in the presence of oxytocin, and that breastfeeding can therefore be a kind of ‘buffer’ to stress. I wanted more. But, in saying that, I DO love that this topic itself was deemed important enough to be included, and perhaps my frustration at this lack of research is also shared by the author themself!

I would have loved to have more information on oxytocin and breastfeeding, in a more complex way. The book focuses very much on oxytocin’s role during birth, despite later saying that ‘Breastfeeding is one of the most oxytocin-rich periods in life’. There is a whole chapter dedicated to synthetic oxytocin, for instance, but there is no reference whatsoever to the nasal oxytocin sprays that some women use when breastfeeding, to help elicit a letdown. It seemed that the breastfeeding related sections were kept simplistic and at an introductory level, when I personally feel that most people who are interested in reading a book solely dedicated to oxytocin will be doing so with a want for more complexities. But that might just be me 😉

If you’re working more in the birthing world, then this book will no doubt be an interesting read, but my take-away is that it seems I’d like to have a whole separate book entitled ‘Why Oxytocin Matters to Breastfeeding’.

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