Research Shows Breastfeeding Makes Moms More Aggressive When Under Stress

Research Shows Breastfeeding Makes Moms More Aggressive Most moms are familiar with the feeling of becoming a “mama bear” when our children are hurt or threatened, but could this effect be magnified in breastfeeding moms?

A study, published in the journal Psychological Science, on maternal defense and breastfeeding says yes.

Not only that, but breastfeeding helps protect newborns — in ways beyond the immune system — and “buffers” maternal stress.

The study, which focused on the phenomenon of lactation aggression, looked at 18 breastfeeding moms, 17 formula-feeding moms, and 20 non-mothers in stressful situations and recorded their reactions.

Researchers found signs of aggression in breastfeeding mothers at a rate almost double that of formula-feeding moms.

Researchers also found that breastfeeding mothers had lower blood pressure during these stressful situations, signalling lowered anxiety. Less anxiety in stressful situations can translate to bravery and aggression, when needed.

This phenomenon has been recorded in animals before, but never in human mothers — until now.

In animal studies, maternal aggression is promoted by the release of oxytocin (a relaxing “love hormone”), which generates uncharacteristic levels of courage and protectiveness.

While this doesn’t mean that breastfeeding mothers are going out and engaging in brawls, the release of oxytocin and the animalistic bond formed by breastfeeding can promote a solid defense mechanism in nursing moms, aiding in the protection of vulnerable infants.

Yet another fascinating component of breastfeeding

Image credit: SteFou!


7 thoughts on “Research Shows Breastfeeding Makes Moms More Aggressive When Under Stress”

  1. I call bull shit. I breastfed all six of my kids. If anything it calmed me down and made me sleepy. Your study sounds like it was done by the formula companies. Breastfeeding is known to make your kids smarter, healthier and more well adjusted. That crap they put in formula is not fit for consumption. Read the ingredients label.

  2. The article clearly states that the blood pressure is lowered. I don’t think the term “aggression” is exact. The bravery and less fear in a stressful situation makes sense. Otherwise I think this other comment clearly demonstrates the potential aggression they are talking about. Lol. Instead of ‘roid rage, you got Mama’s milk rage. :)

  3. Heather, it says “more aggressive when under stress”. Your experience of calm and sleepiness is not inconsistent with their assertions. I don’t perceive any note of criticism in the article at all. Mothers should be protective of their children.

  4. This totally makes sense! I was more snappy after having my kids/while breastfeeding than I was when miserable and pregnant. Once weaned, even under stress I was not as aggressive towards those stressors anymore.
    I think I’ll take a break from all those stressors for 12 months while nursing this time :)

  5. Thanks for sharing this story. I was actually the lead author on this study. The inspiration for the research came from the fact that, in almost every other mammal, scientists had observed that lactating mothers had very high levels of defensive aggression. These mom were not about to go looking for a fight (in fact they went out of their way to avoid it if they could), but if you threatened them, they exhibited high levels of defensive aggress to protect their young. We were the first team to ask whether you would see this same effect in humans. Our study was just corrilational, but breastfeeding mothers’ protective aggression levels looked strickingly simmilar to those found in other mammals. Here is a link to the full article if you’d like a closer look: http://digitalcommons.chapman.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1022&context=psychology_articles

  6. Pretty interesting. But tbh, we are mammals. I’m surprised this wasn’t figured out sooner. I mean, we are animals as well. So similarities are bound to come up. I still breastfeed my toddler and I do have to say I’m pretty aggressive at times, I think with the fluctuations of hormones. I’m in the mist of weaning, so I know that has alot to do with it as well.

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