Diurnal rhythmicity in breast-milk glucocorticoids, and infant behavior and sleep at age 3 months

A.A. Toorop, B. van der Voorn, J.J. Hollanders, L.R. Dijkstra, K.M. Dolman, A.C. Heijboer, J. Rotteveel, A. Honig, M.J.J. Finken

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


© 2020, The Author(s).Purpose: In previous studies, associations between breast-milk cortisol levels obtained on one occasion and infant neurodevelopment were demonstrated. However, more recent evidence indicates that breast-milk cortisol and cortisone concentrations follow the diurnal rhythm of maternal hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis, peaking in the early morning and with a nadir at midnight. We studied associations between breast-milk glucocorticoid (GC) rhythmicity, and infant behavior and sleep. Methods: We included 59 mothers, and their infants, of whom 17 had consulted an expert center during pregnancy for an increased risk of psychological distress. At 1 month postpartum, breast milk was sampled (on average six times) over a 24 h period for assessment of cortisol and cortisone using LC-MS/MS, and experienced maternal distress was assessed using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale questionnaire. Three months after birth, infant behavior was assessed with the Infant Behavior Questionnaire, and infant sleep pattern was quantified by questionnaire. Associations between breast-milk GC rhythm parameters (maximum, delta, and Area Under the Curve increase and ground) and infant behavior and sleep were tested with linear regression analyses. Results: No consistent associations between breast-milk GC rhythm parameters and infant behavior or sleep were found. Conclusions: Breast-milk GC rhythmicity at 1 month postpartum was not associated with infant behavior or sleep at the age of 3 months. Findings from previous studies linking breast-milk cortisol to infant neurodevelopment might be biased by the lack of GC measurements across the full diurnal cycle, and should therefore be interpreted with caution.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)660-668
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2020
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Diurnal rhythmicity in breast-milk glucocorticoids, and infant behavior and sleep at age 3 months'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this