According to a new study, women who breastfeed exclusively may be more likely to emotionally bond with their baby during the first two postpartum months, than women who feed their baby formula exclusively. During the study, researchers scanned the brains of new mothers and found that breastfeeding mothers showed greater activations in various sections of the brain while listening to their baby cry as compared to formula-feeding mothers. The sections of the brain that were more activated in the breastfeeding mothers’ scans were regions related to care giving behavior and empathy.
Researchers suggest: “Breastfeeding and factors associated with breastfeeding, such has high levels of hormones (oxytocin, prolactin), stress and culture may all play an important role for mothers’ brain activity and parenting behaviors during the early postpartum period.”
While the research shows that breastfeeding mothers, in the very early months, appear to experience a greater maternal sensitivity, formula feeding mamas catch up quickly. When all the mother’s brains were scanned at 3 to 4 months postpartum both breastfeeding and formula-feeding mothers, showed the same greater activity in the brain associated with higher maternal sensitivity.
Lead researcher Dr. Pilyoung Kim notes:
“It is important for loved ones to support mothers and help them cope with challenges related to breastfeeding and parenting during this period. Mothers unable to breastfeed may benefit from extra encouragement to engage in sensitive, caring interactions with baby.“