Breastfeeding is a hot topic for women. All of my sisters started out breastfeeding, but some lasted longer than others. Unfortunately, there are a lot of factors that stop women from breastfeeding. Some women stop because of medical reasons, some because of personal choice and diet. In many cases, women just can’t produce enough milk. A study conducted by scientists at the Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center and the University of California Davis have recently found that insulin production is related to how much milk new mothers can produce.

The study was the first to explain how the human mammary gland becomes very sensitive to insulin during lactation. It was also the first study to obtain an accurate depiction of how specific genes are activated in the human mammary gland during lactation. The research team used advanced sequencing technology called RNA sequencing to reveal in sharp and clear detail the “blueprint” for making breast milk in the human mammary gland.

It was previously thought that insulin did not have anything to do with the production of breast milk because insulin is not needed for these cells to take in sugars. However, researchers now see that the insulin does more than facilitate absorption of sugars. Dr. Nommsen-Rivers, a scientist at Cincinnati Children's hospital and author of the insulin study, said that, “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.”

Dr. Nommsen-Rivers goes on to say that, “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.”

The research and data collected from the study has enabled scientists to find that a commonly used drug could help women to produce more milk. Scientists and doctors are planning a phase I/II clinical trial in which a drug used to control blood sugar in type 2 diabetes will be used to determine whether it improves insulin action in the mammary gland and therefore improve a woman’s ability to produce breast milk.

Source: Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center (2013, July 5). Why some women don't have enough breastmilk for baby: Important role of insulin in making breast milk identified. ScienceDaily.

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