Breastfeeding May Reduce Stress In Babies

Mothers have been told from a long span that “breast is best” when it comes to feeding new born babies, a small experiment suggests at least few advantages might have nothing to do with the milk itself.

Pediatricians recommend that mothers must breastfeed infants until they are at least 6 months old because it can bolster the immune system of babies and even reduce the risk of ear and respiratory infections, sudden infant death syndrome, allergies, obesity and diabetes. While there are multiple researches which are documenting these benefits, less is known about exactly how breastfeeding might cause these improvements in babies’ health, researchers noted.

For the current experiment, researchers studied levels of the stress hormone cortisol in 21 babies who were exclusively breastfed for their first five months and another 21 babies who were not. When infants were exposed to stressful situation-their mothers ignoring them- researchers found less evidence of a “fight-or-flight” stress response in the babies who had nursed.

While the current study in humans is small, and does not span multiple generations, the results do suggest that nurturing behaviour by human mothers can make their babies less reactive to stress. To assess this, researchers tested babies’ saliva for changes along the strand of DNA that might be tied to their response to stress and for evidence of cortisol production in response to stress.

“Cortisol is a part of the body’s “flight or fight” reaction, the body’s major response to stress, and too much or too little cortisol can be very harmful and is related to a wide range of mental and physical health disorders in children and adults,” Lester said.

The experiment was not designed to prove whether or even how the infant’s stress responses were influenced by breastfeeding, nor does it determine if their stress responses might have been influenced directly by breast milk, by the act of holding babies to the breast, or by other nurturing behaviours.

But the results suggest that nurturing behaviour by mothers like holding and cuddling infants might benefit newborns even when they drink formula from bottles, said Dr. Robert Wright, author of an accompanying editorial and a professor of paediatrics and environmental medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.

“Much of the work in breastfeeding looks at the aspect of nutrition. That is- breast milk has various constituents than formula- with respect to essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals,” Wright said by email. “That thing plays a important role in the results, but this study I think is likely addressing something else about the breast feeding”.

Bonding during breastfeeding might be an all new different experience than the nurturing babies get from bottle feedings. It is possible that the increased maternal bonding that occurs with breastfeeding may alter the stress response of babies and make infants more resilient when they have stressful experiences.

At the end Wright added, “So the beneficial impact of breast feeding might be at least two-fold: better nutrition and more resilient emotional development. Emotional resilience is likely due to the maternal bonding that breast feeding induces and not from the nutritional advantages which are real, but not driving this particular finding.”



Disclaimer: The opinions expressed/shared in the blog above are personal opinions of the writer. Berrytree recommends you consult with your doctor/pediatrician/family before instinctively following any suggested steps