Breastfeeding experience differentially impacts recognition of happiness and anger in mothers

Sci Rep. 2014 Nov 12:4:7006. doi: 10.1038/srep07006.


Breastfeeding is a dynamic biological and social process based on hormonal regulation involving oxytocin. While there is much work on the role of breastfeeding in infant development and on the role of oxytocin in socio-emotional functioning in adults, little is known about how breastfeeding impacts emotion perception during motherhood. We therefore examined whether breastfeeding influences emotion recognition in mothers. Using a dynamic emotion recognition task, we found that longer durations of exclusive breastfeeding were associated with faster recognition of happiness, providing evidence for a facilitation of processing positive facial expressions. In addition, we found that greater amounts of breastfed meals per day were associated with slower recognition of anger. Our findings are in line with current views of oxytocin function and support accounts that view maternal behaviour as tuned to prosocial responsiveness, by showing that vital elements of maternal care can facilitate the rapid responding to affiliative stimuli by reducing importance of threatening stimuli.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anger*
  • Breast Feeding / psychology*
  • Facial Expression
  • Female
  • Happiness*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Oxytocin / blood
  • Recognition, Psychology*
  • Time Factors


  • Oxytocin