Human breast areolae as scent organs: Morphological data and possible involvement in maternal-neonatal coadaptation

Authors

  • Benoist Schaal,

    Corresponding author
    1. Centre des Sciences du Goût, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (UMR 5170 CNRS-Université de Bourgogne-Inra), Dijon, France
    • Centre des Sciences du Goût, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (UMR 5170 CNRS-Université de Bourgogne-Inra), Dijon, France
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Sébastien Doucet,

    1. Centre des Sciences du Goût, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (UMR 5170 CNRS-Université de Bourgogne-Inra), Dijon, France
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Paul Sagot,

    1. Maternité, Obstétrique et Gynécologie, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire du Bocage and Université de Bourgogne, Dijon, France
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Elisabeth Hertling,

    1. Maternité, Obstétrique et Gynécologie, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire du Bocage and Université de Bourgogne, Dijon, France
    Search for more papers by this author
  • Robert Soussignan

    1. Laboratoire ‘Vulnérabilité, Adaptation, Psychopathologie’, UMR 7593 CNRS-Centre Hospitalier de la Salpêtrière, Paris, France
    Search for more papers by this author

Abstract

In humans, areolar skin glands (AG) enlarge during pregnancy and lactation. Their role in mother-infant interactions may pertain to protective, mechanical, and communicative functions. It was questioned here whether more profuse AG could be related to more optimal adaptation to breastfeeding. A morphological study of the areolae was undertaken between birth and day 3 to assess the number, secretory status, and spatial distribution of AG. These data were related to infants' weight variation, mothers' perception of their infant's behavior at breast, and time between delivery and onset of lactation. AG were seen in virtually all women but with great interindividual variations; their areolar distribution was nonrandom, and about 1/5 of the women had AG giving off a secretion. The AG number was positively related with neonatal weight gain between birth and day 3, and with the mother's perception of infant's latching speed and sucking activity. AG numbers were also positively related with the onset of lactation in first-time mothers. In conclusion, the maternal endowment in AG may contribute to the infants' breastfeeding performance, early growth, and the mother's lactation onset. © 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Dev Psyshobiol 48: 100–110, 2006.

Ancillary