With the recent flood of news on breastfeeding moms in public, the focus has been on the mothers. A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal in Germany takes another direction and places the focus on the baby, for a refreshing change.
According to this study, the relationship between the mother, father, and infant is so intense it creates an emotional response from the baby that ranges from anger to pure happiness. The clinical researchers were able to measure the emotions based on the length of time that a baby focuses on different faces shown to them while nursing.
However, this emotional response is only seen in babies with a certain genotype known as the CC genotype that has the CD38 gene. This is a glycoprotein gene often found on the surface of your white blood cells or the immune cells. Those with impaired CD38 gene cells are at risk for leukemia, type II diabetes, and social amnesia, among others. The babies who were tested tend to look longer at the happy faces and less on the angry faces. They responded to social clues from the eyes of the people they were shown but also, the length of time that they breastfed played a significant role in their ability to respond emotionally to faces.
Babies who are breastfed longer are more responsive to emotions in people’s eyes.
It is important though to note that there are factors about this study that have to be considered. One, the study was conducted in Germany where paid maternity leave can extend to up to one year that makes breastfeeding much simpler for parents. Second, there is no indication that the babies will continue to be emotionally responsive after they have been weaned from breast milk.
What this study does bring attention to is that while the rights of women to breastfeed in public should not be extensively debated upon on the basis of “being offensive,” it is more important to focus on the benefits of feeding babies properly. As of now, breast milk is still the best nutrition for babies up to one year of age. It is also very practical and brings the family closer together especially between mother and child. This study also aims to remove the stigma of breastfeeding as being “old hat” as it proves that babies are extremely responsive at this age and need this kind of physical and emotional attachment with adults – even those unrelated to the immediate family.