Oxytocin Teaches Babies How to Smile From Breastfeeding New Research Suggests

Oxytocin Teaches Babies How to Smile From Breastfeeding New Research SuggestsTurns out that breast milk does make baby smile—new research suggests that oxytocin, a hormone pregnant moms produce, helps babies mimic facial expressions and starts the socialization process while breastfeeding. Oxytocin, aptly named the “cuddle chemical” because of the serene, lovey feelings it inspires, is produced by women throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding. Researchers believe that a baby’s time spent breastfeeding and ingesting breast milk contributes to how well they can learn facial expressions through repetition. Lip smacking, sticking out their tongues, even smiling—babies that don’t breastfeed learn these expressions as well, but researchers are using oxytocin’s role in learning to suggest that breastfeeding teaches babies social interaction at a faster pace.

These preliminary results are most important to doctors whose patients deal with learning social interaction skills later in life. If oxytocin continues to cultivate social interaction skills and facial expression recognition, doctors could potentially use the chemical to treat social disorders, including autistic patients. There is additional research that suggests that oxytocin helps individuals develop trust in others, which is another positive reason why the chemical could be helpful to those with anxiety or social issues.

Not breastfeeding? Cuddle and spend time teaching your baby different facial expressions through games like peek-a-boo. All babies are exposed to oxytocin during pregnancy and birth, so continue to inspire smiles in your baby by teaching social cues from an early age.