New moms do their best to bring their babies up in a care-free bubble that blissfully floats above the sick, sad world the rest of us live in.
But a new Harvard study suggests that even the most devoted of mothers could be passing along something horrible, something every one of us adults fears and loathes: stress. Via breastmilk.
Anxiety is societally chic these days; women should toggle between their career, the kitchen, the playground and the bedroom like a beauty queen pinball — stress has become the crowning accessory teetering on these superwomen's heads.
The Harvard research, collected from breastfeeding new monkey mamas, basically says that the hormones released in stressed out moms can be passed on to infants. But a twist in the plot revealed that not all babies react to the boob-juice hormones in the same way. Sadly, but not-so-surprisingly, the baby girl monkeys drinking milk with relatively high levels of the stress hormone were noted as being more fussy and fearful than baby primate boys nursed with similar milk.
Breast feeding moms and boob enthusiasts alike have fought hard and hard for women’s rights to breastfeed at work and in public—de-stigmatizing an utterly natural (and dare we say beautiful) process. They can hardly be blamed for unknowingly passing anxiety along. After all, breast is best.
But this new information, enlightening as it is, leaves behind a sticky seed of a question waiting to bloom: are baby girls getting wired for a lifetime struggle with stress? Is there a lineage of perpetual fretfulness being chemically passed along? Once again, we can rely on science to leave us with twice as many questions as it's answered. This research, ironically, gives potential mothers one more thing to stress out about.
We glorify overachievers and go-getters for totally valid reasons—and we should sing their type-A, tenacious praises—but that doesn’t mean we should congratulate them on their stress. Instead of perpetuating the idea of stress as a normal and un-detachable part of success, more motions should be made towards incorporating stress relief into our lives.
Of course stress is natural—it pushes us to meet deadlines and helps us step sh*t into hyper drive when we need to—but it shouldn’t be normalized daily burden we have to carry in order to achieve happiness. And ff we do have the power to pass on stress, think about the sense of serenity that we could foster between breast-milk and babies!
We can probably expect more research to follow because, let’s be real. People are never going to get over boobs.