Were politicians breastfed properly?
Do you trust your local politician? Or to ask in another way, do you think your local politician breastfed well as an infant? Current baby development theory stresses the importance of the first 1,000 days of life. Within that time period, the first six months or roughly 200 days, a new mother is recommended to exclusively breastfeed the baby. The benefits of breast milk are clear. Not only is it nutritious but it also protects the baby against disease. The act of breastfeeding is also a benefit both to the mother and the baby. It creates a bond that for many is life long. But there is a little question that needs to be asked. Why should a baby trust his mother? Or even vice versa. Why should a mother trust a baby and offer him, her breast milk? What is the deal?
We might hypothesise that it is a genetic thing. After all, this baby has your genes. But that does not explain in years past women who used to breastfeed on behalf of others who chose not to. Or, in a slightly different way, it does not explain the love that mothers have for their adopted children. This bond is called love and it is based on trust. In effect the first time mother and baby meet, they are total strangers, yet instantly they bond and from thereon for a while are inseparable. True love at first sight. So the question still stands, where does this trust come from? And how come it is so much less when it comes to dealing with your leaders? Part of the answer can be explained by understanding how one of our hormones called oxytocin works.
Oxytocin is a hormone derived from a Greek word that means “quick birth” after it was discovered to have uterus muscle contract properties. It is the hormone that causes milk to begin to flow out of breast tissue. This ‘let down reflex’ begins when an infant suckles on the mother’s nipple. The stimulation of the breast nipple causes nerves to fire off impulses to the brain where the neurons that produce oxytocin are excited. The oxytocin produced travels in the blood stream and on reaching breast tissue full of milk causes it to start flowing. It is the action of the baby suckling the nipple that causes the oxytocin and in turn the breast milk to flow. Once satisfied the baby turns to other matters and the flow of milk stops. But that is not all that oxytocin does.
As mentioned, it is involved in contraction of the uterus during birth. In fact midwives and obstetricians use it during childbirth to hasten the process of delivery especially when the labour contractions are weak. Most interestingly, oxytocin also mediates trust. Among mammals, oxytocin has been found to promote social attachment and affiliation. Oxytocin receptors are found in the parts of the brain that associated with behaviour that promotes pair bonding, maternal care and normal social attachments. In humans, experiments done show that levels of oxytocin rise when people are ‘in love’ or in circumstances where there is a lot of love in the air. Imagine for example a happy wedding, full of relatives and friends marrying off a favourite son to a girl they all adore. There is then a lot of oxytocin flowing about. The speeches made contain phrases like ‘We trust they will be happy’. Those are the hormones talking. But the hormones are not always there.
In a way, the interactions we have with politicians are similar to that which people have at a wedding. You do not really know the marrying couple but rely on your gut sense and bless them, trust that all will be well. Time tells whether the trust was well placed. This is because oxytocin does not flow all the time. Eventually we can observe someone’s true actions and judge accordingly. If the politicians are almost all male then there is a further problem. The hormone testosterone reduces secretion of oxytocin. The Alpha male is full of testosterone. Put together a bunch of real men and the amount of male hormone in the air is measured in kilos. The result is nobody trusts the other. Without trust we cannot build a functional healthy society.
We could whenever we see a bunch of politicians spray the air with oxytocin. Alternatively we could encourage our politicians to advocate for breastfeeding of all babies. Have a generation that grows up trusting society.