You are here: Home » News-ANI » Science
Business Standard

New theory suggests babies wake new mothers at night as part of survival tactic

ANI 

A leading evolutionary biologist has put forward the theory that an infant's tendency to wake up in the night may have been a Darwinian tactic to make mothers breastfeed more, thus reducing their fertility and limiting the number of siblings that will be born, which in turn improved a child's chances of survival.

Breastfeeding acts as a natural contraceptive during the first six months after birth, stopping women from menstruating. Encouraging the effect would have been beneficial for our ancestors, because the fewer siblings one had, the more competition there would be for scarce resources, and the lower the risk of infectious disease spreading, according to Professor David Haig, of Harvard University.

Pointing out that shorter delays between siblings being born is associated with higher infant mortality, Professor Haig said that the "benefits of delay can be substantial", perhaps explaining babies' instinctive urge to keep their mums awake, breastfeeding at all hours, the Independent reported.

He said that natural selection will have preserved suckling and sleeping behaviours of infants that suppress ovarian function in mothers because infants have benefited from delay of the next birth.

It may be fathers' genes that are responsible, he added. Evidence from babies with Angelman syndrome (AS), a rare developmental disorder marked by extreme restlessness, indicated that paternal genes promote suckling and waking.

Professor Haig said that the behaviour, was "part of our natural heritage".

He said that the time of life when babies are most likely to wake often in the night, around six months, corresponded to the time when mothers were most likely to be becoming fertile again.

The research is published in the journal Evolution, Medicine and Public Health today.

Dear Reader,


Business Standard has always strived hard to provide up-to-date information and commentary on developments that are of interest to you and have wider political and economic implications for the country and the world. Your encouragement and constant feedback on how to improve our offering have only made our resolve and commitment to these ideals stronger. Even during these difficult times arising out of Covid-19, we continue to remain committed to keeping you informed and updated with credible news, authoritative views and incisive commentary on topical issues of relevance.
We, however, have a request.

As we battle the economic impact of the pandemic, we need your support even more, so that we can continue to offer you more quality content. Our subscription model has seen an encouraging response from many of you, who have subscribed to our online content. More subscription to our online content can only help us achieve the goals of offering you even better and more relevant content. We believe in free, fair and credible journalism. Your support through more subscriptions can help us practise the journalism to which we are committed.

Support quality journalism and subscribe to Business Standard.

Digital Editor

First Published: Thu, April 10 2014. 14:57 IST
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU