The secret to mother-baby bonding might be breast milk, according to new research that determines that breast-feeding mothers are more likely than formula-feeding moms to bond with their infants in the months after they’re born. They also demonstrate stronger brain responses when they hear their baby cry, according to a study published in the May issue of the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.
Researchers at the Child Study Center at Yale University divided moms into two groups — nine breast-feeders and eight formula-feeders — and performed functional MRIs (fMRI) on them about a month after their babies were born.
While participants lay in a scanner and listened to clips of their own baby and an unknown child crying, researchers tracked what areas of their brains lit up. All mothers’ brains were more active when listening to their own baby’s cry, but the changes in the breast-feeding mothers’ relevant brain regions were far more significant.
Breastfeeding is the least expensive and most effective way to improve and protect your baby’s health, and now a first-of-its-kind study also suggests that breastfeeding may have a direct impact on a mother’s brain, promoting ‘maternal behavior’ and increasing emotional bonding between the mother and child.
This is not altogether surprising, since breastfeeding promotes the increased release of oxytocin, also known as the “love hormone,” or “bonding hormone.”
Time Magazine May 20, 2011
Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry April 18, 2011; [Epub ahead of print]
Medical News Today May 30, 2011
Pediatrics May 29, 2011 [Epub ahead of print]
Birth: Issues in Perinatal Care May 20, 2011 [Epub ahead of print]