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Nursing babes savor garlic, shun spirits.

Nursing moms with a yen for garlic can relax. A new study suggests that nurslings drink more of mother's milk when it's flavored with the savory seasoning. But a second study by the same researchers shows that babies drink less breast milk when it's got a touch of alcohol.

The new work reflects a growing interest in whether flavors affect a baby's behavior during the nursing phase and perhaps later in life. Some scientists think moms who eat spicy foods during the pregnancy may pass that penchant along to their infants. Does that mean babies fed monotonous formulas may shun Szechuan restaurants as adults?

No one knows, but Julie A. Mennella and Gary K. Beauchamp of the Monell

Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia have embarked on investigations that may one day help answer that question.

Many new moms are advised to drink a glass of beer or wine just before nursing to boost their milk production, yet the evidence linking alcohol to increased lactation remains problematic, Mennella notes. In the Oct. 3 NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE, she and Beauchamp examine the issue from a new angle.

To get an idea of how babies react to a nip of alcohol in mother's milk, the team studied 12 nursing mothers and their infants. Alcohol consumption reported by the mothers during lactation ranged from one-half drink to 20 drinks a month.

Mennella and Beauchamp began their experiment by collecting a sample of breast milk from each volunteer. Then they gave six of the women a glass of pure orange juice, and six a glass of orange juice spiked with grain alcohol. During the next three hours, the babies nursed on demand and the researchers collected additional milk samples at various intervals. A week later, the researchers repeated the experiment but switched the groups so that women who had received straight juice got the alcoholic version and vice versa.

To evaluate the milk's odor -- a key component in flavor -- the team recruited 17 adults with a normal sense of smell. This "sniffing panel" readily detected a change in breast milk odor after the mothers drank the spiked juiced.

Babies seemed to notice the change as well. In the testing sessions when their mothers received alcohol-spiked juice, infants drank "significantly" less milk, Mennella and Beauchamp report. They suggest three possible factors: Babies may simply dislike the flavor of alcohol; alcohol may impair their sucking ability; or alcohol may temporarily decrease maternal milk production.

While alcohols eems to dampen nursing behavior, a hint of garlic may help whet a baby's appetite. In a study described in the October PEDIATRICS, Mennella and Beauchamp recruited eight nursing mothers and their infants. Again, they collected a baseline sample of milk. Half the women then took a garlic capsule; the rest got a placebo capsule. This time, the researchers observed the women and their infants for four hours, collecting milk samples at regular intervals.

The sniffing panel noticed a strong odor in milk from the mothers who ingested garlic capsules. But the babies seemed to prefer the garlicky milk, remaining attached to the breast for longer periods after their mothers took the capsules. In addition, infants tended to consume more garlic-flavored than "plain" milk, the team reports.

Studies such as these may help nursing mothers select foods that will entice finicky babies, says James B. Snow Jr., director of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, which helped fund the studies. He adds that while the findings suggest that nurslings like certain flavors and dislike others, the research doesn't rule out the possibility that certain ingredients in garlic or alcohol may increase or decrease a mother's milk production.
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Title Annotation:breast-feeding research
Author:Fackelmann, Kathy A.
Publication:Science News
Date:Oct 12, 1991
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