Insulin helps new mums with breastfeeding problems lactate

Updated: Jul 06, 2013, 15:41 PM IST

Washington: A new study has looked into insulin`s role in lactation success among mothers have difficulty in making enough milk to breastfeed their babies.

The study is the first to describe how the human mammary gland becomes highly sensitive to insulin during lactation.

It is also the first study to get an accurate picture of how specific genes are switched on in the human mammary gland during lactation.

The researchers used next generation sequencing technology, RNA sequencing, to reveal "in exquisite detail" the blueprint for making milk in the human mammary gland, according to Laurie Nommsen-Rivers, PhD, a scientist at Cincinnati Children`s and corresponding author of the study.

Nommsen-Rivers` previous research had shown that for mothers with markers of sub-optimal glucose metabolism, such as being overweight, being at an advanced maternal age, or having a large birth-weight baby, it takes longer for their milk to come in, suggesting a role for insulin in the mammary gland.

The new research shows how the mammary gland becomes sensitive to insulin during lactation.

For a long time, insulin was not thought to play a direct role in regulating the milk-making cells of the human breast, because insulin is not needed for these cells to take in sugars, such as glucose.

Scientists now, however, appreciate that insulin does more than facilitate uptake of sugars.

The study is published online in PLOS ONE, a journal of the Public Library of Science.