Hungry babies sniff their mother's milk
French researchers have discovered that the substance produced by the glands on the areola of the mothers' breasts favored breastfeeding. Babies would detect the smell that would increase their appetite and encourage them to suckle.
It is difficult to resist the sweet aroma of food, from the youngest age. This is at least what researchers have demonstrated from the National Center for Scientific Research of Dijon. They discovered that the fluid produced by the areola glands of the mothers emitted a smell that stimulated the appetite of infants and guided them to the breast.
To arrive at such a conclusion, the scientists counted the number of glands located on the areoles of the breasts of 121 women three days after they gave birth. In fact, it had already been shown that the number of these structures called the areolar gland increased during pregnancy, and that they occasionally leaked small quantities of liquid. But so far, it was thought that the substance was used to lubricate the skin for breastfeeding. To find out more, Benoist Schaal and his team followed the mothers and their babies, observing how they breastfed and how their weight changed over time. They also noted the moment when mothers actually started producing breast milk instead of colostrum, the yellow "superlait" made right after birth.
In the end, they found that women with more than nine glands produced milk well before those who had less. In addition, their babies were gaining weight faster. This effect is particularly pronounced for those who were first-time mothers and for whom babies fed more frequently. Thus, they discovered that the odor of the substance released by the areolar glands actually encouraged three-day-old infants to suckle more. According to New Scientist findings, this process would then provide breastfeeding support to the less experienced "first" mothers.
A useful substance for very premature babies
In addition, the researcher Benoist Schaal emphasizes the importance of such a discovery as to the possibilities of applications. For example, if scientists were able to bottle this odor, the technique could be used to train the muscles of the mouth of infants too premature or too sick to feed. "It could help prepare the transition from tube feeding to sucking mother's nipple or bottle," says the researcher quoted by the Daily Mail. However, the substance derived from the areolar glands may not be the only factor that can promote breastfeeding, according to the experts.