Why some mothers struggle to produce breastmilk

By Mariam Digges

Why some mothers struggle to produce breastmilk
A new study has revealed the important role that insulin plays in a mother’s ability to produce breast milk.

The study, which was conducted at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Centre and the University of California Davis, was the first to detail how the human mammary gland grows sensitive to insulin during lactation.

Laurie Nommsen-Rivers, a scientist at Cincinnati Children’s, found that for mothers who are either overweight, at a higher maternal age, or who give birth to larger weight babies, producing breast milk often takes longer, which suggests a strong link between breast milk production and insulin in the mammary gland.

“This new study shows a dramatic switching on of the insulin receptor and its downstream signals during the breast’s transition to a biofactory that manufactures massive amounts of proteins, fats and carbohydrates for nourishing the newborn baby,” says Dr. Nommsen-Rivers.

“Considering that 20 percent of women between 20 and 44 are prediabetic, it’s conceivable that up to 20 percent of new mothers in the United States are at risk for low milk supply due to insulin dysregulation.”

Now that the crucial role of insulin has been unearthed in the human mammary gland and producing breast milk, more studies have been planned for a clinical drug to control blood sugar in type 2 diabetes to find out whether it improves the way insulin works in the mammary gland and hence, improve the production of milk.

But many don’t agree with Dr. Nommsen-Rivers’ use of drugs to treat the issue.

“The ideal approach is a preventive one,” she says. “Modifications in diet and exercise are more powerful than any drug. After this clinical trial, we hope to study those interventions.”



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