Cytokines, infections, stress, and dysphoric moods in breastfeeders and formula feeders.
J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. 2006 Sep-Oct;35(5):599-607. PMID: 16958715
OBJECTIVE: To analyze relationships between stress, moods, and immunity in breastfeeding compared to formula-feeding mothers. DESIGN: A cross-sectional study of 181 healthy mothers, exclusively breastfeeding or formula feeding, studied at 4 to 6 weeks after childbirth. SETTING: Mothers were recruited in the postpartum unit of the hospital and then visited in their homes once at 4 to 6 weeks after childbirth for data collection. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Stress, mood, infection symptoms, and serum levels of interferon-gamma and interleukin-10 were measured. RESULTS: Formula-feeding mothers had evidence of decreased interferon-gamma and a decreased serum Th1/Th2 ratio (interferon-gamma/interleukin-10) when perceived stress, dysphoric moods, and negative life events were high, an effect consistent with depression of cellular immunity. However, women who were breastfeeding did not show these relationships. CONCLUSIONS: The data suggest that breastfeeding confers some psychoneuroimmunological benefit to mothers, perhaps through prolactin or hypothalamic-hypophyseal-adrenocortical axis stress refractoriness.