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Breastfeeding: Soothes Baby And Mom

August 6, 2005
McGill University
New research from Montreal, Canada scientists shows the benefits of breastfeeding on mental health.

Montreal, Canada -- Moms, want to lower stress? Try breastfeeding. Newresearch from the McGill-affiliated Douglas Hospital Research Centre inMontreal shows mothers who breastfeed respond less to stressfulsituations than those who bottle-feed their children. These findingssuggest these mothers may be better able to care for their children.

"It has been well established that breast milk is the best source ofnutrition for infants - it is beneficial to their physical and mentaldevelopment," says Claire-Dominique Walker PhD, senior investigator anddirector of the Neuroscience Research Division at the Douglas HospitalResearch Centre. "Our work now shows that there is a reciprocal benefitof breastfeeding to the mothers -- they react less to stressfulsituations. This means they will focus more on their children and havemore energy for activities such as attending to their infants andproducing milk -- this is an obvious gain for the children."

Walker and her team, including Sonia J. Lupien, PhD, directorof the Douglas' Centre for Studies on Human Stress and graduate studentMai Tu, studied the stress responses of 25 breastfeeding and 25bottle-feeding mothers, having either one baby or several otherchildren. The moms were exposed to different types of stressfulsituations ranging from those considered "emotional or relevant" --watching a video about hurt and lost children, to those considered"non-threatening or non-relevant" -- such as public speaking and mathproblems. Stress was determined by measuring the levels of cortisol (astress hormone) in their saliva. The preliminary findings show that thebreastfeeding moms had reduced levels of cortisol (indicating lessstress) during the emotional and non-threatening stress situations.This effect also occurred in response to the relevant stressor, but itwas even more pronounced in experienced breastfeeding mothers (i.e.mothers with several children). This indicates an added potentialbenefit of breastfeeding after repeated deliveries."

"This difference in response to relevant and non-relevant stressors isvery interesting," says Tu. "It means that the experiencedbreastfeeding moms filter out the important stressor from theinsignificant one and that bottle-feeding mothers might be less able todo so. Our findings show some of the bottle-feeding moms to be morereactive to stress, which may lead to less than optimal care for theinfant."

"Our study may also have implications for women prone topost-partum depression," adds Walker. "Post-partum stress is a riskfactor for post-partum depression. If we can better understand how thebreastfeeding moms reduce their stress, by filtering daily lifechallenges we may be able to better treat the moms prone to post-partumdepression."


August 1 to 7 is World Breastfeeding Week. To find out more, go to

Affiliated to McGill University and the World Health Organisation, theDouglas Hospital Research Centre is one of the largest in the country,with a team of over 60 scientists and clinical researchers and 180post-graduate students. This team is devoted to understanding thecauses of mental disorders -- whether genetic, environmental, culturalor social -- as well as developing diagnostic tools, treatments andprevention methods.

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Materials provided by McGill University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

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McGill University. "Breastfeeding: Soothes Baby And Mom." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 August 2005. <>.
McGill University. (2005, August 6). Breastfeeding: Soothes Baby And Mom. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 2, 2023 from
McGill University. "Breastfeeding: Soothes Baby And Mom." ScienceDaily. (accessed December 2, 2023).

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