New research suggests breastfeeding makes babies less ‘reactive’ to stress

FILE: A photo depicting breastfeeding.

SALT LAKE CITY — New research from the Care New England Medical Group found that breastfeeding may change gene activity in babies, possibly making them less reactive to stress.

University of Utah Associate Professor Elisabeth Conradt was on the research team. She completed her post-doctoral work with Dr. Barry M. Lester, who led the research. She’s thrilled with the results of the research and what it could mean for care giving practices.

“The most exciting thing to us is that in the past, we could describe how maternal care giving was related to infant responses but we couldn’t explain it,” Conradt said. “Now we have a better understanding of how caregiving gets under the baby’s skin.”

Researches studied more than 40 full-term, healthy infants and their mothers. Half of the babies breastfed for the first five months of live and the other half did not.

“What we found is that maternal care changes the activity of a gene in their infants that regulates the infant’s physiological response to stress, specifically the release of the hormone cortisol,” Lester said.