Diabetes During Pregnancy May Impact Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is known to improve the health of the mothers. Mothers who don’t breastfeed are at a higher risk of developing ovarian and breast cancer. Additionally, mothers who don’t breastfeed are more prone to developing type II diabetes in the long run. Mothers who acquired gestational diabetes have an increased risk of developing type II diabetes later in life. But breastfeeding can reduce or offset this risk in the mothers.

But the question is if a mother has diabetes, does this affect her breastfeeding success? Proofs point to various possible reasons why a few mothers struggle to make sufficient milk. Insulin resistance attributes to one of the reasons of low supply of breast milk mothers. Here are a few points on how insulin resistance affects the mother’s breast milk production.

Insulin Is Associated With Breast Development And Milk Production

Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas, responsible for controlling blood sugar levels in our body. It keeps your blood sugar levels from going too high (hyperglycemia) or falling too low (hypoglycemia). Once you finish eating, your blood sugar level rises and insulin is released into your bloodstream to maintain the blood sugar level balance. If there is excess sugar in your body, insulin stores this excess sugar in your stomach and liver. When your blood pressure drops or you need more sugar when you’re working out, the excess sugar is released into the body to make up for the absence of sugar.

Research shows that mothers in whom the insulin resistance markers are present (like obesity), may have a delay in their milk production. This observation points a role of insulin in the mother’s breast. Insulin is an important factor that regulates breast growth and milk production. Previous animal studies have found that breast cells in a woman must be insulin resistant for the breasts to develop and function optimally.

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What Is Insulin Resistance?

Insulin resistance is a condition where your body uses insulin less effective than usually to regulate blood sugar levels. If this condition is not resolved, the body would require more insulin to regulate the blood sugar levels. If this persists for long, your body will not be able to make sufficient insulin to balance the blood sugar levels, thereby resulting in type II diabetes. During pregnancy, your body produces hormones that help in the growth and development of your baby. But these hormones tend to block the insulin from acting, due to which your body requires more insulin. As your pregnancy progresses, your body’s need for insulin increases two or three folds than normal.

If you already have insulin resistance, your body will not be able to cope with the sudden demand for extra insulin. This causes your blood sugar levels to rise and you may most probably develop gestational diabetes. It has been found that a particular gene is expressed more often in mothers who are insulin resistant when compared to mothers who are not insulin resistant.

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Insulin Resistance Causes Low Breast Milk Supply

A study comparing the electronic medical records of two groups of mothers was conducted recently. One hundred and seventy-five mothers with a low breast milk supply with no nipple problems were compared to 226 mothers with nipple problems and a low breast milk supply. It was revealed that about 15% of the first group had developed diabetes during pregnancy (gestational, type 1, or type 2 diabetes) when compared to 6% of those with nipple problems and a low milk supply.

All mothers chosen for this study were less than 90 days postpartum and highly driven to breastfeed. Researchers now plan to examine if a drug used to control blood sugar in type II diabetes people may enhance insulin action in the mother’s breast, therefore improving breast milk supply. While there are other factors such as dietary changes and exercise seem to be more ideal, this study can establish a proper evidence on insulin resistance impacting the breast milk production in a mother.

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