An overlooked aspect of the human breast: Areolar glands in relation with breastfeeding pattern, neonatal weight gain, and the dynamics of lactation
Doucet S, Soussignan R, Sagot P, Schaal B.
Early Hum Dev. 2011 Aug 16. [Epub ahead of print]
The early nursing-sucking relationship is not to be taken for granted in humans. A number of factors can either facilitate or mitigate its optimal establishment on the mother’s or newborn’s sides. Among these factors, a morphological feature of human mothers’ breasts – the areolar glands (AG) – has been identified as potentially important.
Three day-old infants display attraction during the presentation of the native secretions of the AG, suggesting that they could influence the newborn’s behaviour during breastfeeding. The present study assessed this topic in a sample of 121 Caucasian mother-infant dyads. The areolae of these women were screened during the first 3 postnatal days in parallel with the infant’s sucking performance, body weight fluctuations and time to lactation onset. On average, 97% of the women bore AG, 80.2% having 1-20 units per areola and 33% showing AG excreting a visible fluid. The endowment in AG appeared positively linked with neonatal growth after birth and with the speed of lactation onset: infants of primiparous women with lower AG numbers had a lower weight gain than those of mothers with higher AG numbers. Further, it took longer to primiparae with lower AG counts to set on lactation. This study confirms and extends the fact that AG, in interaction with maternal experience, might influence the initiation of the breastfeeding relationship.