Latest Cool Thing About Breast Milk: It Helps Moms Talk to Their Babies

breastfeeding babyWe know all the good that comes from breastfeeding for both mom and baby. There are nutrients and microbes and all the good things that help babies thrive and boost their immunity. Breastfeeding also gives mom and baby an incredible bond -- many mothers can attest to the magic of oxytocin and prolactin, the hormones released when we nurse our babies. But a new study has revealed that it is even more than all of that. Breastfeeding releases messages to our babies as if we had a secret decoder ring sharing vital information about the key to living life (at least in these early days). You know how we have coffee talk with our friends? Breast milk talk is communication with baby through breast milk.


The Journal of Behavioral Ecology published a study on monkeys showing how cortisol, a hormone in breast milk, relays messages from mother to child. Messages through mama's milk? Yes! Breast milk "communicates" with babies telling them to grow, to thrive, and even change temperaments based on Mom. Can breastfeeding soothe a cranky baby? Of course it can, and now we have more insight that it is through a chemical signal within the breast milk that baby drinks. Amazing!

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Dr. Katie Hinde was the lead author on this study. She is a behavioral biologist at Harvard and she noted that the monkey babies in this study were keenly aware of how much cortisol is in a mother's milk. Cortisol, which is known as the stress hormone, can help us handle (or not handle) challenging situations. So how stressed we are or are not changes our milk. It was discovered that the monkey mothers who had milk with high levels of cortisol had babies who gained weight faster and were more nervous and less confident. Mom's stress is baby's stress -- this is true not just pertaining to breast milk. De-stressing is key. We all already know that ... and we're trying.

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The study also showed that first-time moms had higher levels of cortisol than moms who already had other children. Which makes sense. The good cortisol levels, however, gave babies increased energy because the message sent was that the moms can handle an active baby. The more stressed mama levels of cortisol gave babies the signal that they need to be less active so mama can rest. All babies were still given the right amount of nutrition to thrive. Our bodies are in tune with our babies' bodies, and breast milk relays that message.

Of course this study was done on monkeys so it won't be exactly the same for humans, but researchers say it's an important discovery and one they will use to uncover more regarding breast milk's power to communicate. There is so much more to breastfeeding than just nutrition -- it gives secret codes to babies, it allows us to "talk" to our babies without words, our own language decoded through mama's milk. Women truly are magical beings and breastfeeding really is a superpower.

What do you think of this study? Isn't it fascinating that our breast milk gives messages to baby?


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