Washington: Women who breast-feed are far more likely to show “mama bear” behaviour — aggressively protecting their infants and themselves — than women who bottle-feed their babies or non-mothers, according to a new study.
And when breast-feeding women behave aggressively, they register a lower blood pressure than other women, the study found.
The results, the researchers say, suggest that breast-feeding can help dampen the body’s typical stress response to fear, giving women the extra courage that they need to defend themselves.
“Breast-feeding has many benefits for a baby’s health and immunity, but it seems to also have a little-known benefit for the mother,” said Jennifer Hahn-Holbrook, a postdoctoral fellow in the UCLA Department of Psychology and the study’s lead author.
“It may be providing mothers with a buffer against the many stressors new moms face while at the same time, giving mothers an extra burst of courage if they need to defend themselves or their child.”
But the aggression demonstrated by breast-feeding mothers has its limits, Hahn-Holbrook added.
“Breast-feeding mothers aren’t going to go out and get into bar fights, but if someone is threatening them or their infant, our research suggests they may be more likely to defend themselves in an aggressive manner,” she said.
The breast-feeding mothers’ reaction is known as “lactation aggression” or “maternal defense” in mammals.
The study has been published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.