Could Breast Milk Make Your Baby Happier?

On top of being nutritious and a great way to bond, breast milk and breastfeeding could also affect your baby's behavior, according to new research. Here's how.

Could Breast Milk Make Your Baby Happier? pavla/Shutterstock

If you could manipulate your breast milk for a happier (and possibly less needy) baby, would you? While scientists have a fairly comprehensive understanding of the immunological and nutritional benefits of mother's milk, the medical community is still not very clear on how it impacts the infant's demeanor. But a new report from Harvard University researchers in the journal, Evolution, Medicine and Public Health, argues that yes, your milk may indeed influence your baby's behavior.

The paper synthesized current knowledge from microbiology, endocrinology, anthropology, human evolution, and lactation science to argue that mothers produce specific milksugars to encourage the growth of certain gut bacteria in Baby to control her moods, thus, in evolutionary terms, reducing the strain of a potentially fussy baby on mom. In other words, you may not realize it, but you're your own personal baby-calming machine.

Related: Andrew Weil's Natural Ways to Boost Breast Milk Production

While more studies are needed to learn how exactly the milk has an effect on specific infant behaviors, the study's authors believe that a better understanding of milk's behavioral benefits could potentially influence how infant formula is made, as well as improve donor milk matching for neonatal babies that are experiencing a bacterial invasion of the intestinal tract. "Perhaps we could optimize aspects of that donor milk for not only immunological help but also their neurological development," explained lead study author and assistant professor of human evolutionary biology at Harvard, Katie Hinde in an interview with CBC news.

So is there anything you can do to your diet while breastfeeding Junior to affect his behavior? Unfortunately, the researchers don't have an answer for that just yet. "The profile of milk sugars a mother secretes is at least partially genetically controlled and doesn't currently seem to be affected by diet," Harvard graduate student and study co-author, Cary R. Allen-Blevins told Fit Pregnancy. If nothing else, the fact that a link may exist between breastfeeding and a baby's behavior is just another reason to breastfeed if you can.

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