Two new studies show breastfeeding problems are common - and
Most new moms start out
planning to breastfeed their babies. But when they encounter difficulties early
on, many get frustrated and abandon the whole idea.
Two new studies from
Cincinnati Children’s help explain why so many new moms get off to a difficult
start. They also suggest ways to make breastfeeding experiences more
The early days are crucial
The first study,
published this month in Pediatrics, reveals
that 92 percent of new moms reported at least one breastfeeding concern within
three days of giving birth. And when new
moms struggle early, they are 10 times more likely to give up on breastfeeding,
says Laurie Nommsen-Rivers, PhD, who led a team of researchers in the study.
More than half of the 532
moms interviewed in the study said their main difficulty was getting their
babies to “latch on” to the breast.
Other common concerns were pain with breastfeeding and an insufficient
supply of milk. Each mom was interviewed
six times over several weeks. The moms who reported problems in the first week
or two after giving birth, especially concerns about how the baby was feeding
at the breast (“latching on”) or how much milk they were making, were most
likely to stop breastfeeding.
“This may be related to
the fact that these interviews captured a time when there is often a gap
between hospital and community lactation support resources,” Nommsen-Rivers
education, peer support, and professional lactation support in the first few
days at home could make a critical difference in successful breastfeeding, she
Insulin levels can affect milk supply
In another study,
published in July in PLOS ONE online,
Nommsen-Rivers and a colleague at the University of California - Davis
discovered a connection between insufficient milk production and how a mother’s body uses insulin.
Insulin is a hormone best
known for regulating blood sugar. But it also plays an important role in
regulating the metabolism of proteins and fats. Using gene sequencing
technology, the researchers found that mammary glands are especially sensitive
to insulin when lactation begins.
This suggests that
mothers who are insulin-resistant may not secrete insulin fast enough to
quickly build up an abundant milk supply.
Patience and support are key
So far the studies have involved only a small number of women, says Nommsen-Rivers, but the findings suggest that insulin-resistant and pre-diabetic mothers can breastfeed – it may just take a little longer for their milk production to be adequate. She notes that it is especially important for these women to have professional support when starting to breastfeed.
“It’s crucial for mothers concerned about their milk supply to be under the care of a healthcare professional knowledgeable in breastfeeding management, such as the experts available at Cincinnati Children’s Center for Breastfeeding Medicine,” Nommsen-Rivers says.
The researchers plan a clinical trial of a diabetes drug used to control blood sugar to see if it improves insulin activity in the mammary gland and increases the milk supply.