Two research scientists from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Ohio recently presented the findings of two studies to two different medical societies. The subject of each study was limited milk production in lactating women with insulin-related medical disorders.

Sarah Riddle, MD
Pediatrician Riddle studied 561 women experiencing problems of milk production. Some of the women were experiencing low milk supply because of problems getting their children to latch onto the breast during breastfeeding. For others, no immediate cause for low milk production was identified.

Looking further into why these women were having breast milk supply problems, Riddle and her research team discovered a link between gestational diabetes and low milk supply. The number of women seeking treatment for low milk supply who also had gestational diabetes was 250% greater than the number of women seeking help caused by latching problems.

Riddle says there’s a need “to better understand how we can identify mothers at risk for low milk supply” and develop therapies that will “support lactation success in women with a history of glucose intolerance.” She presented the findings of her study at the annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Laurie Nommsen-Rivers, PhD
Nommsen-Rivers’ study found a connection between lactation insufficiency and metabolic health after delivery. Women exhibiting symptoms of metabolic syndrome were more likely to experience low milk supply even if they were not diabetic during pregnancy. Symptoms of metabolic syndrome include excess weight and a high body mass index (BMI), insulin resistance, and elevated fasting insulin. Elevated fasting plasma glucose in the pre-diabetic range was found to be the strongest predictor for low milk production.

Thorough and frequent breastfeeding, beginning immediately after giving birth, is the “single most important factor in building a strong milk supply,” according to Nommsen-Rivers, but “nearly one out of every four reproductive-aged women is pre-diabetic,” a situation she describes as “one consequence of the obesity epidemic” in America.

Nommsen-RIvers called for informed support of women vulnerable to low milk production. She presented the findings of her study to attendees of the annual conference of Experimental Biology in San Diego, California.

Difficulties with breastfeeding, including low milk production, is one of the leading reasons women choose formula-feeding over breastfeeding during the first six months. Some of the leading medical societies and organizations in the United States recommend feeding a baby nothing but breast milk for the first six months of its life, if not for longer.

Source: “Factors Leading to Diabetes May Contribute to Milk Supply Problems for New Mothers.” Cincinnati Children’s Newsroom. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. May 5, 2014. Web. May 16, 2014.