Breastfeeding: The Science Behind The Mother-Baby Bond

Since the beginning of human existence, before modern advancements, mothers have fed their babies with breast milk (whether it be their own or another mother's). Even today, many consider breastfeeding nature's way of completing the 'creation of life' cycle because of its advantages for both mom and baby alike. Through research and women's personal experience, it has been shown that the bond between a mother and a baby strengthens more with breastfeeding as compared to bottle feeding, but scientists have often wondered what exactly happens between mom and baby that creates this unique bond.

According to the Child Development Institute, "breastfeeding is designed by nature to ensure maternal-infant interaction and closeness" and "if done without schedules or other restrictions,... [the mother] quickly learns to read her baby's cues and to trust her own instincts". In saying that, breastfeeding allows a trust to be established between the pair because the baby feels more in control of his/her needs, while the mother feels more confident in her abilities to read her child. Trust can also be established with infant formula feeding, but in contrast, the baby has no control over how much milk they receive.

Via medela.com

In addition to the quantity, babies also have a say in the composition of the breast milk itself. Researchers believe that it is the baby's saliva that communicates with the mother's breast, shifting to meet what the baby needs. Studies have shown that breast milk changes in terms of temperature and antibodies, depending on what the baby's body is fighting off. Through breastfeeding, the mother is also benefited through the drainage of milk from her breasts (which is very relieving!), but research also shows that breastfeeding can decrease mom's chances of developing certain diseases, including breast cancer.

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Yes, breast milk is pretty interesting stuff when you think about it, but what is it about the action of breastfeeding that creates this amazing bond that is so talked about? Examining the brains of both mom and baby during feeding, scientists have discovered that a lot more is going on up there than we think. In an interview with Romper, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, Leigh Anne O'Conner, states that "neurons ignite by the act of nursing, hormones exchange with skin to skin contact, and the parent is often talking to their baby". Not only that but the 'love hormone' oxytocin is released in both mom and baby's brain, further solidifying the attachment.

So, we all know that human breast milk is food specifically designed for human babies, but there is so much more to it that we are now beginning to learn. Breastfeeding has been linked to children having a higher IQ, but it also has shown to reduce the risk of allergies, asthma, SIDS, and a lot of diseases. This bond, that so many mothers refer to, is established not only because "mom equals food", but because both mom's body and baby's body work in unison to collaborate and take care of one another. Is there anything more special than that?

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