London: Just as adults find the smell of freshly cooked food irresistible, hungry babies too can sniff their mothers` milk.
Tiny glands on the breast produce a fluid with a smell that hungry babies find irresistible, according to a new study.
Newborns fed more and put on weight more quickly when feeding from mothers who had plenty of glands, visible as small bumps around the nipple.
The scent could be used to teach tube-fed premature babies how to breast feed, researchers said. This would help them do better when they are eventually able to feed naturally, the journal New Scientist reports.
The number of areolar glands often increase during pregnancy and they sometimes leak small amounts of liquid, according to the Daily Mail.
It had been thought the fluid was used to lubricate the skin but now it seems it also whets the baby`s appetite.
Researchers from National Centre for Scientific Research in Dijon, France, counted the number of glands on the nipples of 121 mothers in the first three days after birth.
They recorded how well the babies suckled as well as how much they weighed. Women with more than nine of the glands per breast started to produce milk sooner than those with fewer glands.
The smell of the liquid produced by the glands made the three-day-old babies want to suckle more, said researcher Benoist Schaal from the National Centre.