Mothers with metabolic health complications are more likely to have a “persistent low-milk supply” compared to those with good health, a new study shows.

Scientists from the University of Cincinnati have found that mothers with good blood pressure and fasting glucose levels produce a sufficient amount of breast milk.

Chief author Dr Laurie Nommsen-Rivers said: “We wanted to see if we could understand what stands out as different in these moms. So, we conducted a case control study to see why, despite their best efforts at doing everything right with breastfeeding, they were not making enough milk.

“The prevailing dogma is if you try hard enough at breastfeeding, your body will be able to do this.”

During the study, the team of researchers examined the health data and measured the breast milk of several women, all of whom had given birth two months earlier.

Dr Nommsen-Rivers said: “We’ve seen hints in these large epidemiologic studies of factors related with insulin resistance, so that’s why we looked at the whole metabolic panel.

“All those things that contribute to your risk of metabolic syndrome were examined: blood pressure, plasma lipids, fasting glucose, fasting insulin, insulin sensitivity.”

She added: “Across the board, all those measures were significantly worse in the moms with unexplained persistent low-milk supply as compared to the control group.”

Prior research has detected a link between a higher BMI and mothers breastfeeding for a shorter duration of time.

In addition, previous studies have found that a higher BMI can trigger the development of metabolic health problems.

Dr Nommsen-Rivers said: “This is the first study where we have validated their persistent low-milk supply.

“This is not just simply based on a woman thinking, ‘Oh, I didn’t have enough milk, that’s why I gave my baby formula’.”

She concluded: “Our research results strongly point to there being a physiologic basis for their low-milk production. It wasn’t due to these women not trying hard enough.

“This was one area that’s severely understudied. The reason I got a PhD was I felt that the evidence we used to provide breastfeeding management was way too thin.”

Read the study in full in the journal Breastfeeding Medicine.

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