The Chemistry of Connection Book Cover

Turning Mares into Foster-Mares

Walnut Hills Farm, a horse breeding operation in Kentucky is using oxytocin to connect foals with foster-mothers while their real mothers are being bred elsewhere.

Not only can unbred mares that have previously had at least one foal be persuaded with medication to produce milk, but the procedure also seems to stimulate maternal behavior, greatly simplifying the tricky process of getting a nurse mare to adopt an orphan foal. For an operation like Walnut Hall, which uses nurse mares routinely, it was a revolutionary idea.

It's nice that they are using rescued horses as the foster mothers, "giving them a new lease on life," as the article in says.

But, hold on a minute, this doesn't mean that we can necessarily improve the attachment of moms and babies with oxytocin. It's more complicated than that. After all, in hospital births, women are routinely given a large amount of pitocin, an oxytocin analog. And if anything, it seems to inhibit the natural attachment process.

See The Mother/Baby Attachment Gap for more on this.