Scent of breastfeeding women arouses sexual desire in other women

24 October, 2007

Smells released by breastfeeding women and newborn babies boost the sexual desires of other women.

Research conducted by a team of fertility specialists say their findings suggest that the odors contain a substance which acts as an aphrodisiac, supporting the controversial theory that human pheromones exist and can subtly affect our behavior.

The researchers said it may be possible to identify the chemical responsible for the effect, and use it to develop a treatment for women who wish to increase their desire for sex.

The researchers from the University of Chicago, the United States, looked at how the smell of sweat collected from the breast and armpits of nursing mothers affected a group of young women.

Half were asked to wipe pads soaked in the sweat across their upper lip every morning and evening for three months.

They were also asked to re-apply the pads after showering, exercising and wiping their mouths after eating. The remaining half were given similar pads, soaked in a dummy liquid.

Neither group knew what was on the pads.

By the end of the study, those given the sweat-soaked pads found their desire for their partner had risen by around 42%, while those who were single had more sexual daydreams than usual.

The effects were particularly striking during the time of the month when the women’s fertility and sex drive was at its lowest. In contrast, libido actually dropped among those with dummy pads.

It is thought those given the sweat-soaked pads were affected by the pheromones, which are secreted by the body to affect behavior, including sexual attraction, on an unconscious level.

In this case, it is thought that they acted as a signal to other women that food is plentiful and the environment is safe to bring a baby into.

Having a baby at the same time as other women would also allow the burden of childcare to be shared.

If the key compounds in the sweat, breast milk and baby’s saliva could be identified and bottled, they could be turned into a powerful aphrodisiac for women, the study added.

Martha McClintock, a psychologist at the University of Chicago, the United States, told the annual meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine: “We knew there are other species in which the females use social signals from other females to help time when they become pregnant and have offspring at optimal times, and so we wanted to find out if that was the case in humans.”





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