Breastfeeding Makes Babies Less Susceptible To Stress, Study Says
Breastfeeding seems like common sense. Nature has designed breast milk to nourish our babies. Yet, with formulas available, some mothers opt out of breastfeeding even without any medical reasoning.
However, breast milk is still a superior and ideal choice for its physical and mental health benefits for both babies and mothers. Not to mention that it’s free.
New research suggests that the physical and mental health benefits of breast milk are due to genetic changes induced by breastfeeding.
The study was led by Barry M. Lester, PhD, director of Women & Infants Hospital’s Brown Center for the Study of Children at Risk and a professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at The Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University. Other team members included Elisabeth Conradt, assistant professor of developmental psychology at the University of Utah; Linda LaGasse, Ph.D, Edward Tronick, Ph.D, of the University of Massachusetts Boston, James F. Padbury, M.D., of Women & Infants Hospital/Warren Alpert Medical School and Carmen Marsit, Ph.D, of Emory University.
Results were published in Pediatrics journal in September 2018.
The research was done on 40 full-term, healthy infants and their mothers. One half of the group breastfed their children for the first five months, while the other half did not. Researchers measured the infants’ cortisol stress reactivity through their saliva, as well as their DNA methylation, changes in their DNA activity without sequence changes, examining the glucocorticoid receptor gene responsible for their development, metabolism and immune response.
Dr. Lester and his team found that maternal care can change the activity of a specific gene that regulates the infant’s physiological response to stress, more specifically cortisol, a hormone that is released in response to stress and low blood-glucose concentration.
Breastfeeding was associated with decreased cortisol activity, as well as decreased DNA methylations, which means that breastfed babies experienced reduced stress compared to non-breastfed infants.
These findings are exciting. We’ve known it for a long time that maternal care giving influences the infant’s responses from experience and observation, however, until now, we had no scientific explanation for it.
Do you find these findings just as exciting as we do? Do you have children or are you currently expecting? What are your views and experiences with breastfeeding? Share your answers in the comments, we would love to hear from you.
And remember, we’re in this together.
Kat Gál is a professional holistic health writer who helps health, wellness and nutrition businesses to market their products and services through quality online content. She is also a Certified Holistic Health & Life Coach. Kat is a multi-passionate writer, world traveler, nomad, runner, and cat-person. She is a lifelong learner who lives outside of her comfort zones stretching her boundaries and discovering beauty around the world. Reach out if you are looking for amazing blog content at email@example.com.
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