Study Finds Babies Learn To Suckle By Smell

05/10/2012 14:05 | Updated 22 May 2015
Study finds babies learn to suck via smell - whether mouse or humanPA

A new study has found that mammals begin to suckle their mum's milk through a 'learned response' built on how mum smells!

The authors of the report say that new evidence shows for the first time that suckling in mice - who have a similar parenting style as humans - is a learned response built on learning the mother's unique combination of smells.

Researchers claim that the exposure to the smell of mum's amniotic fluid then leads a baby to respond after birth to its mother's other combination of smells in order to feed.

The scientists claim the findings will be 'useful' in the study of human instinctive behaviour.

"This is a neat study which shows the value of studying the development underlying an apparently 'innate' behavior," said Dr Tristram Wyatt from the University of Oxford. "The surprising result is that mouse pups use the individual odours of the mother to find their first feed. It is a reminder of the way that evolution uses whatever works: there is more than one way to find the first milk meal. The rabbit has a pheromone in the milk, humans may have one around the nipple, and mice learn the individual odour of their mother. All three enable the vital task of getting the newborn to suckle."

Hmm - not entirely comfortable with the assertion that 'mice have a similar parenting style to humans' - and isn't it old news that baby's can recognise the smell of their mum?

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