The "smellscape" of mother's breast: Effects of odor masking and selective unmasking on neonatal arousal, oral, and visual responses

  • Doucet S
  • Soussignan R
  • Sagot P
 et al. 
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Lactating women emit odor cues that release activity in newborns. Such cues may be carried in various substrates, including milk or areolar secretions. The present study aimed to examine the responses of infants facing their mother’s breast and to sort out the source(s) of active volatile compounds emitted by the lactating breast. Infants (aged 3–4 days) were presented their mother’s breast in two consecutive trials of 90 s each: a scentless condition (breast entirely covered with a transparent film) paired with one of four odorous conditions (fully exposed breast: n¼15; nipple only exposed: 15; areola only exposed: 13; and milk exposed: 12). The infants were more orally activated when facing any of the odorous breast conditions than when facing the scentless breast. They cried earlier and longer, and opened their eyes less, when facing the scentless breast. Nipple, Areola, and Milk odors appeared to be equivalent to the whole breast odor in stimulating oral activity and in delaying crying onset. This study shows that volatile compounds originating in areolar secretions or milk release mouthing, stimulate eye opening, and delay and reduce crying in newborns.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Areola
  • Breast feeding
  • Human newborn
  • Milk
  • Mother-infant relation
  • Olfaction

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  • Sébastien Doucet

  • Robert Soussignan

  • Paul Sagot

  • Benoist Schaal

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