The secretion of areolar (Montgomery's) glands from lactating women elicits selective, unconditional responses in neonates

PLoS One. 2009 Oct 23;4(10):e7579. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0007579.


Background: The communicative meaning of human areolae for newborn infants was examined here in directly exposing 3-day old neonates to the secretion from the areolar glands of Montgomery donated by non related, non familiar lactating women.

Methodology/principal findings: The effect of the areolar stimulus on the infants' behavior and autonomic nervous system was compared to that of seven reference stimuli originating either from human or non human mammalian sources, or from an arbitrarily-chosen artificial odorant. The odor of the native areolar secretion intensified more than all other stimuli the infants' inspiratory activity and appetitive oral responses. These responses appeared to develop independently from direct experience with the breast or milk.

Conclusion/significance: Areolar secretions from lactating women are especially salient to human newborns. Volatile compounds carried in these substrates are thus in a position to play a key role in establishing behavioral and physiological processes pertaining to milk transfer and production, and, hence, to survival and to the early engagement of attachment and bonding.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Autonomic Nervous System
  • Breast / pathology*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate
  • Humans
  • Infant Behavior
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lactation*
  • Milk Banks
  • Milk, Human / metabolism*
  • Nipples / metabolism*
  • Odorants
  • Respiratory Rate
  • Smell / physiology
  • Sucking Behavior / physiology