When Stress Comes with Your Mother’s Milk - Issue 68: Context

When Stress Comes with Your Mother’s Milk - Issue 68: Context

A few years ago, when my oldest daughter was still nursing, I went through a panicky phase. I had committed to a run of public-speaking engagements, and I constantly worried that I would flub them. Before each event, I pumped milk for the baby and left her with the sitter, who eventually confided that she dreaded my departures as much as I did. While I was away, she told me, my daughter was irritable and inconsolable. She would cry in the stroller; she would cry when held. Refusing to nap after feeding, she back-arched and bawled.

“We’re like quantum particles!” I marveled. My daughter felt how I felt—from across the city.

“No,” the sitter insisted, “it’s the milk.”

I flashed on all those times I had pumped between nervous preparations, my heart racing. Had I passed my stress on to my daughter through my breast milk? When I posed this question to Laura Glynn, a psychologist at Chapman University, she said it was plausible. Along with the proteins, minerals, vitamins, fats, and sugars that nourish an infant, the antibodies that help fight infection, and the growth factors that aid in tissue development, milk contains a cocktail of hormones, including the…
Read More…