Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Like mama bears, nursing mothers defend babies with a vengeance

Date:
August 31, 2011
Source:
University of California, Los Angeles
Summary:
Women who breast-feed are far more likely to demonstrate a "mama bear" effect -- aggressively protecting their infants and themselves -- than women who bottle-feed their babies or non-mothers, according to a new study.

Grizzly bears protect their young. Women who breast-feed are far more likely to demonstrate a "mama bear" effect -- aggressively protecting their infants and themselves -- than women who bottle-feed their babies or non-mothers, according to a new study.
Credit: outdoorsman / Fotolia

Women who breast-feed are far more likely to demonstrate a "mama bear" effect -- aggressively protecting their infants and themselves -- than women who bottle-feed their babies or non-mothers, according to a new study in the September issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

And when breast-feeding women behave aggressively, they register a lower blood pressure than other women, the study found. The results, the researchers say, suggest that breast-feeding can help dampen the body's typical stress response to fear, giving women the extra courage they need to defend themselves.

"Breast-feeding has many benefits for a baby's health and immunity, but it seems to also have a little-known benefit for the mother," said Jennifer Hahn-Holbrook, a postdoctoral fellow in the UCLA Department of Psychology and the study's lead author. "It may be providing mothers with a buffer against the many stressors new moms face while at the same time, giving mothers an extra burst of courage if they need to defend themselves or their child."

But the aggression demonstrated by breast-feeding mothers has its limits, Hahn-Holbrook added.

"Breast-feeding mothers aren't going to go out and get into bar fights, but if someone is threatening them or their infant, our research suggests they may be more likely to defend themselves in an aggressive manner," she said.

The breast-feeding mothers' reaction is known as "lactation aggression" or "maternal defense" in mammals.

Hahn-Holbrook was aware that non-human female mammals, including macaques, rats, mice, hamsters, lions, deer, sheep and others, display more aggression when they are lactating than at any other reproductive stage, but she couldn't find any research that tested that reaction in people. So she decided to set up the first experiment to study lactation aggression in humans.

For the study, researchers recruited three groups of women -- 18 nursing mothers, 17 women who were feeding formula to their babies and 20 non-mothers. Each woman was asked to compete in a series of computerized time-reaction tasks against a research assistant posing as an overtly rude study participant. The women's infants were supervised in an adjoining room.

Upon winning a round in the competition, the victor was allowed to press a button and deliver a loud and lengthy "sound blast" to the loser -- an act of aggressiveness. The researchers found that breast-feeding mothers delivered sound blasts to the rude research assistant that were more than twice as loud and long as those administered by non-mothers and nearly twice as loud and long as those by bottle-feeding mothers. This was true both before and after the breast-feeding mothers nursed their infants.

The researchers also measured participants' stress levels via blood pressure during the experiment. Breast-feeding mothers' systolic blood pressure was found to be approximately 10 points lower than women who were feeding formula to their infants and 12 points lower than non-mothers.

Previous research in non-human mammals has shown that lactation enables heightened defensive aggression by down-regulating the body's response to fear, a phenomenon that benefits the survival of both mothers and their offspring. The lower blood pressure seen in the breast-feeding mothers during acts of aggression, the researchers say, is an indication that the same mechanism is likely at work in humans as well.

Co-authors of the study included Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a psychology professor at Brigham Young University; Colin Holbrook, a postdoctoral fellow and research associate in the UCLA Department of Anthropology; Sarah Coyne, a professor of family life at Brigham Young University's School of Family Life; and Ernest Lawson, a professor at Queen's University Belfast.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California, Los Angeles. The original article was written by Letisia Marquez. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of California, Los Angeles. "Like mama bears, nursing mothers defend babies with a vengeance." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 August 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110830165352.htm>.
University of California, Los Angeles. (2011, August 31). Like mama bears, nursing mothers defend babies with a vengeance. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110830165352.htm
University of California, Los Angeles. "Like mama bears, nursing mothers defend babies with a vengeance." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/08/110830165352.htm (accessed July 23, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law

Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law

AP (July 22, 2014) Two federal appeals courts issued conflicting rulings Tuesday on the legality of the federally-run healthcare exchange that operates in 36 states. (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Why Do People Believe We Only Use 10 Percent Of Our Brains?

Why Do People Believe We Only Use 10 Percent Of Our Brains?

Newsy (July 22, 2014) The new sci-fi thriller "Lucy" is making people question whether we really use all our brainpower. But, as scientists have insisted for years, we do. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Find New Way To Make Human Platelets

Scientists Find New Way To Make Human Platelets

Newsy (July 22, 2014) Boston scientists have discovered a new way to create fully functioning human platelets using a bioreactor and human stem cells. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Gilead's $1000-a-Pill Drug Could Cure Hep C in HIV-Positive People

Gilead's $1000-a-Pill Drug Could Cure Hep C in HIV-Positive People

TheStreet (July 21, 2014) New research shows Gilead Science's drug Sovaldi helps in curing hepatitis C in those who suffer from HIV. In a medical study, the combination of Gilead's Hep C drug with anti-viral drug Ribavirin cured 76% of HIV-positive patients suffering from the most common hepatitis C strain. Hepatitis C and related complications have been a top cause of death in HIV-positive patients. Typical medication used to treat the disease, including interferon proteins, tended to react badly with HIV drugs. However, Sovaldi's %1,000-a-pill price tag could limit the number of patients able to access the treatment. TheStreet's Keris Lahiff reports from New York. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins