Drawing My Own Conclusions
Another guilt-breeding study for moms.
Research from the University of California, Los Angeles, reveals that breastfeeding women register lower blood pressure than other women, suggesting that nursing buffers against typical stressors and fear, and provides extra courage to new moms if they must defend themselves or their child. This “mama bear” reaction, which supposedly is less likely in moms who don’t breastfeed, is known as "lactation aggression" or "maternal defense" in mammals. Non-human female mammals display more aggression when they’re lactating than at any other reproductive stage. The lower blood pressure seen in the non-human breast-feeding mothers during acts of aggression, the researchers say, indicates that the same mechanism is at work in humans, too.
For the study, researchers recruited three groups of women -- nursing mothers, formula-feeding mothers and non-mothers. Each woman competed in computerized time-reaction tasks against a research assistant posing as an overtly rude study participant. Upon winning a round, the victor was allowed to press a button and deliver a "sound blast" to the loser -- an act of aggressiveness. The results? Breastfeeding mothers delivered sound blasts more than twice as loud and long as those administered by non-mothers and bottle-feeding mothers.
I’m no scientist, but that’s not very compelling evidence. Maybe those winning moms battled standstill traffic on their way, stayed up the night before with colicky infants or would’ve “sound blasted” a sect of silent monks while lugging around two engorged, painful loaves of cement on their chests. I just can’t buy into the results that lactating moms would defend themselves or their babies more aggressively than any other mom; however, it does offer a reason as to why La Leche League mom members can be extremely “aggressive” with newbie moms.
“I dreamt my whole life about being a mother,” says Heidi Jellison. “I never dreamt about a big wedding, honestly never even dreamt about the husband part.” Jellison, a 35-year-old concert harpist and harp teacher, laughs at this last bit, but then her face settles into a quiet solemnity.
To read this and other Her Well-Being stories, click here.