File this one under: One more reason breastfeeding is the best thing ever. Mom’s breast milk may influence baby’s demeanor. A new report out of Harvard University and published in the journal Evolution, Medicine and Public Health, suggests that a mother’s milk may impact her little one’s mood and behavior for the better – meaning every time you nurse, you help nudge your baby toward a calmer and happier outlook.
So how does it all work? Researchers claim that certain properties in breast milk spur the growth of healthy bacteria in baby’s belly. In turn, this bacteria regulates your little one’s moods and hormones. So ultimately, in layman’s terms, nursing our young may mean less fussy, more even-keeled babies thanks to sugars available in breast milk and passed on to our children.
According to this study, breast milk not only affects babies physical growth, “but also areas of their brain that shape their motivations, their emotions, and therefore their behavioral activity,” reported Dr. Katie Hinde, a Harvard University professor involved with the study.
Scientists were quick to point out that more research is needed in this area before they’re able to apply their findings to new developments or treatments. But what could be on the horizon thanks to this new discovery? A healthier, stronger and more well-rounded infant formula, for one. A firmer grasp on the properties and benefits of breast milk could make mom’s milk easier to replicate commercially. Time and time again, we’re reminded that when it comes to feeding our babies, ‘breast is best.’ But what about women with milk supply issues, health conditions that require medical treatments unsafe for baby – or women who just choose not to nurse? Having the option to purchase an infant formula that more closely resembles human milk may help more babies reap the benefits breastfeeding rewards.
A better understanding of breast milk could even help babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit receive the best match for donor milk. With more research under their belts, doctors may be able to select milk donations that offer the best help both physically and emotionally to babies in need.
For now, there’s not much science can do with this information, but dream of continuing to study the unique benefits of breast milk.