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Monkey Model of Milk and Lactation

Monkey Model of Milk and Lactation

Like humans, monkeys generally give birth to one baby at a time and nurse them for extended periods during a time of infant and toddler-like development. Primates need this extended lactation period for social development. Just as humans need to learn interpersonal and societal rules, monkeys also need to learn how to find food and not kill each other. Thus, monkeys, like humans, produce a dilute milk to feed slow-growing young. Read More...

Take It Easy: Neonatal Milk Hormones Influence Infant Social and Cognitive Behavior

Take It Easy: Neonatal Milk Hormones Influence Infant Social and Cognitive Behavior

Email, texts, IM, Facebook, Instagram—in the age of social media, there is no shortage of ways to send a message from one person to another. But is mother’s milk the original social network? Many of milk’s ingredients are believed to act as signaling factors that convey a “message” from mother to infant. Over the last decade, researchers have worked on decoding these messages, with a particular focus on the hormone cortisol. Milk cortisol levels are associated with infant growth and infant temperament in rhesus macaques, and hypothesized to send the message to be more cautious and prioritize growth over behavioral activity. A newly published study expands on this hypothesis and tests whether milk cortisol levels during the first weeks of life predict behavior and cognitive performance months later. The results suggest that far from being an instant messenger, milk’s signal may have effects well after it is received. Read More...

Mega Milk Composition Analysis

Mega Milk Composition Analysis

Fifty years ago Devorah Ben Shaul published the seminal paper "The Composition of the Milk of Wild Animals" (1963). She had spent ten years aggregating published papers of milk composition as well as directly analyzing dozens of species' milks. Eyeballing the data from 101 species, Ben Shaul posited that the composition of milks--the percent fat, protein, and sugar--did not necessarily cluster by the evolutionary history of taxonomic groups (a.k.a. phylogeny). She noted that "grizzly bear milk and kangaroo milk had virtually the same basic milk composition" (p. 333). Therefore, Ben Shaul approached milk from the perspective of environment and nursing behavior. She posited that milks clustered in relation to the degree of maturity at birth, maternal attentiveness and nursing frequency, and the exposure to water and ambient temperature. To learn more about milk composition among mammals, read this. Read More...

Hormones in Mother’s Milk Influence Baby’s Behavior

Hormones in Mother’s Milk Influence Baby’s Behavior

Mammalian young are not just passive creatures allocating mother’s milk solely to survival and growth. The calories young need to be behaviorally active, from the hesitant romping of the young foal to the arm-waving, ear-splitting tantrum of a newborn baby, come from mother’s milk (Hinde and Capitanio, 2010). But other bioactive constituents in mother’s milk, namely hormones, may also influence HOW the infant behaves. Read More...

Boy milk vs. girl milk

Boy milk vs. girl milk

At the grocery store, there are formulas for infants with very low birth weights, soy-based formulas for infants with dairy allergies, and low-sodium formulas for infants who need restricted salt intake. Should there also be Boy Formula or Girl Formula? The answer is...maybe. Recent research has shown that mothers make different milk for sons and daughters Read More...

SPLASH!® Newsletter Editorial Staff

Executive Editor Danielle Lemay, PhD Danielle Lemay received her BS in Electrical Engineering & Computer Science from MIT in 1995. After an engineering career designing circuits in Silicon Valley, she earned an M.S. (2005) and PhD (2008) in Nutritional Biology from the University of California, Davis, with a doctoral dissertation on the systems biology of lactation. As a post-doctoral researcher, she was part of the Bovine Genome Sequencing and Analysis Consortium and led a team of 19 scientists, with Monique Rijnkels, to produce a companion paper devoted to the evolution of milk and lactation. She is now a USDA scientist at the Western Human Nutrition Research Center where her lab is focused on the interface of diet, microbes, and host immunity. She is also an Associate Professional Researcher and Faculty Member at the UC Davis Genome Center. In March 2012, she founded the IMGC’s e-newsletter, “SPLASH! milk science update” with the financial assistance of California Dairy Research Foundation and the International Milk Genomics Consortium.   Managing Editor Katie Rodger, PhD Dr. Katie Rodger joins SPLASH!® as managing editor as longtime science writing instructor in the University Writing Program at the University of California, Davis. She regularly teaches advanced professional writing courses in science writing, environmental science writing, and science journalism. She has collaborated with scientists at UC Davis, Stanford University, and the University of Alaska Southeast on projects that combine field research and writing. Her previous research includes two books about marine scientist, Ed Ricketts, often known as friend and collaborator of John Steinbeck.   Associate Editors Anna Petherick Anna Petherick received her B. A. and M. A. from Cambridge University. Shortly afterward she took up the position of science and technology correspondent at The Economist and achieved a rare thing: an exceedingly nerdy, worldwide, biological sciences cover story—that didn’t […]

Twin Study Suggests Moms Make Sex-Specific Milk

Twin Study Suggests Moms Make Sex-Specific Milk

Lactation biologists have long known that human milk synthesis varies across and within mothers. In the search for sources of this variation, the spotlight has been primarily directed at maternal factors. But it takes two to nurse, and human infants are not simply passive consumers of milk. Infant characteristics, from low birth weight to illness, are known to affect milk synthesis, primarily through an increase in the very ingredients needed to improve infant health, growth, or cognitive development. Human milk appears to be tailored to specific infant needs—one milk does not fit all. Read More...

How Much Milk Does a Cow Produce? Depends on Early Life Conditions

How Much Milk Does a Cow Produce? Depends on Early Life Conditions

Maternal nutritional conditions during pregnancy are known to have substantial impacts on infant development. This was most clearly demonstrated by research into the outcomes of infants from the Dutch Hunger Winter of 1944. Because determination and differentiation of cell lines occur during embryonic development, nutritional conditions and other environmental insults early during pregnancy can substantially alter offspring phenotype, including behavior and general health. Read More...

Milk: Not just for moms, not just for mammals

Milk: Not just for moms, not just for mammals

Last month was Movember, during which men grow facial hair to raise awareness of men's health. I started thinking about milk moustaches and realized you can't have a milk moustache if you don't have lips. I guess we won't be seeing pigeons in any upcoming dairy ad campaigns- even though they make "milk," and it functions like the milk of mammals. "Pigeon milk" was first systematically described in the 1930s and continues to intrigue dairy scientists through today. Read More...

Dinosaur aunts, bacterial stowaways, and insect milk

Dinosaur aunts, bacterial stowaways, and insect milk

Milk is everywhere. From the dairy aisle at the grocery store to the explosive cover of the Mother's Day issue of Time magazine, the ubiquity of milk makes it easy to take for granted. But surprisingly, milk synthesis is evolutionarily older than mammals. Milk is even older than dinosaurs. Read More...