Carmen Marie Hove

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

California, Santa Barbara, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10004

Approve Date

August 26, 2020

Project Title

Hove, Carmen (California, Santa Barbara, U. of) "Investigating time-dependent effects of breastfeeding behavior on maternal immune regulation and perceived somatic health."

Skin-to-skin breastfeeding evolved as bi-directional relationship between mother and infant, resulting in opportunities for both congruence and conflict. With the invention of infant formula and rudimentary breast pumps, the 19th century introduced evolutionarily novel alternatives to skin-to-skin breastfeeding that are now commonly used across numerous populations. While the ill-effects of curtailed breastfeeding on infant immune development and health outcomes have been studied extensively, the consequences for maternal immune function and short-term morbidity are largely unknown. Furthermore, the possibility that variation in breastfeeding behavior may differentially impact maternal immune status across the postpartum period, as a result of shifting maternal optimums, has not been evaluated. The proposed study will longitudinally measure breastfeeding behavior, immunological biomarkers, and perceived physical health among a heterogenous sample of mothers in the United States, allowing us to test two main hypotheses: (1) the degree to which skin-to-skin breastfeeding is preserved (i.e. frequency of infant feedings delivered via breastfeeding) will correspond to reduced inflammatory activation and better self-reported health, and (2) this relationship will be strongest in the early postpartum period, when infant and maternal optimums are most likely to overlap, but will be relatively attenuated later in the postpartum period, reflecting increased opportunity for parent-offspring conflict.