The Impact of Breastfeeding on the Maternal Mind
Monday, November 21st
Jennifer Hahn-Holbrook, PhD
NIMH Postdoctoral Fellow, Psychology
University of California, Los Angeles
To read the abstract, click 'read more' below.
Breastfeeding is an integral part of the mammalian mothering experience. The onset of lactation after birth precipitates important changes related to stress regulation, caregiving and offspring protection in many mammals. Surprisingly, however, little research has investigated whether lactation affects maternal psychology and behavior in humans. In this talk, I will review the current evidence linking lactation to human maternal bonding and stress regulation, and present original research relating breastfeeding to maternal aggression and postpartum depression. In addition, I will present new data on the somewhat counterintuitive role of oxytocin, an important hormone implicated in many pro-social behaviors which is released during lactation in heightened maternal aggression. Taken together, these findings suggest that lactation shapes the maternal mind in ways that could have important implications for maternal health.