London: A new research has found that hungry newborns are guided to their mother’s breast by their noses because tiny glands on the areola produce a fluid with a smell that they find irresistible.
The newborns were also found to feed more and put on weight more quickly when feeding from mothers who had lots of the glands, which are visible to the naked eye as small bumps around the nipple.
The French researchers say the scent could be used to teach tube-fed premature babies how to breast feed.
It was already known that the number of areolar glands often increases during pregnancy, and that they sometimes leak small amounts of liquid.
It had been thought the fluid was used to lubricate the skin, but now it seems it also whets the baby’s appetite.
Lead researcher Benoist Schaal from the National Centre for Scientific Research in Dijon and his colleagues counted the number of glands on the nipples of 121 mothers in the first three days after birth.
They then recorded how well the babies suckled, as well as how much they weighed.
They also noted when the women started producing breast milk, rather than colostrum.
They found that women with more than nine of the glands per breast started to produce milk sooner than those with fewer glands.
And their babies also gained weight more quickly.
The effect was especially noticeable in first-time mothers, whose babies also fed more frequently.
They also showed that the smell of the liquid produced by the glands made the three-day-old babies want to suckle more.