Lactation Hormone Also Helps a Mother’s Brain

Researchers at the University of Otago, New Zealand for the first time found that hormone Prolactin, which stimulates milk production for lactation, also helps the brain to establish a nurturing connection between mother and baby. The prolactin hormone signaling to its receptors in the specific area of the brain, medial preoptic area (MPOA) is required for mothers to show significant maternal behavior towards their young ones after parturition. From these findings a question is raised, is this brain circuitry the “feel good” factor to encourage breastfeeding? The study of this research was published in the prestigious journal Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) under the title “Prolactin action in the medial preoptic area is necessary for postpartum maternal nursing behavior”.


Study co-author Dr. Rosie Brown says, “the team observed that these mice without prolactin receptors were able to get pregnant and give birth normally, but abandoned their litters around 24 hours after birth. Our findings establish a critical role for prolactin for more than simply milk production. This work is the first to show this hormone is a literal lifesaver in that it establishes and maintains the normal parental care that ensures offspring survival.”

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