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"Breastfeeding Might Benefit Babies By Reducing Stress" - Lisa Rapaport

  • Reuter's Health
  • New York, NY
  • (September 26, 2018)

Mothers have long been told that “breast is best” when it comes to feeding newborn babies, but a small experiment suggests at least some of the benefits may have nothing to do with the milk itself. 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 a stressful situation – their mother ignoring them – researchers found less evidence of a “fight-or-flight” stress response in the babies who had nursed. But the results suggest that nurturing behavior by mothers like cuddling and holding infants might benefit newborns even when they drink formula from bottles, said Robert Wright, director of the Mount Sinai Institute for Exposomic Research. “Much of the work in breast feeding looks at the nutritional aspect of it. That is - breast milk has different constituents than formula - with respect to essential fatty acids, vitamins and minerals,” said Dr. Wright. “That might play a role in the results, but this study I think is likely addressing something else about breast feeding.” It’s possible that the increased maternal bonding that occurs with breastfeeding may alter babies’ stress response and make infants more resilient when they have stressful experiences, Dr. Wright added.

- Robert O. Wright, MD, Professor, System Chair, Department of Environmental Medicine and Public Health, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Director, Mount Sinai Institute for Exposomic Research

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