Obesity Could be the Culprit Behind Low Milk Production in Lactating Mothers

Fatty acids are required for the production and utilization of energy throughout the body. Fatty acids are the building blocks for the fats needed to feed a growing infant in nursing women. The researchers hypothesized that inflammation may negatively impact milk production by preventing absorption of the fatty acids into the milk-producing mammary glands.

The researchers analyzed blood and milk from a study conducted at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and the University of Cincinnati. In the original study, researchers recruited 23 mothers who had very low milk production despite frequent breast emptying (which is the standard medical practice for increasing milk production), 20 mothers with moderate milk production, and 18 mothers who were breastfeeding exclusively and who served as the control group for the study.


 In the current study, the researchers analyzed fatty acid and inflammatory marker profiles in both blood and breast milk.

Obesity and Breast-milk Production

Compared to those in the moderate milk production and exclusively breastfeeding groups, mothers with very low milk production had significantly higher obesity and biological markers of systemic inflammation. They also had lower proportions of long-chain fatty acids in their breast-milk and disrupted association between blood and milk fatty acids. Milk and blood fatty acids were strongly correlated in controls, but not in the very low or moderate milk production groups.

Research has shown repeatedly that there is a strong connection between the fatty acids that you eat and the fatty acids in your blood. The study was one of the first to examine whether the fatty acids in blood are also found in breast milk.

Correlation of Fatty Acids in Blood and Breast-milk

For women who are exclusively breastfeeding, the correlation was very high; most of the fatty acids that appeared in blood were also present in the breast-milk. But for women who had chronic inflammation and were struggling with milk production, that correlation was almost completely gone. This is strong evidence that fatty acids are not able to enter the mammary gland for women with chronic inflammation.

For years, research has shown that mothers with obesity are at increased risk of shortened breastfeeding duration. This study provides clues about the mechanisms that may account for this result (3 Trusted Source
Gestational weight gain is associated with delayed onset of lactogenesis in the TMCHC study: A prospective cohort study

Go to source).

Breastfeeding has innumerable benefits for both the mother and child, including lower risk of chronic disease for mom and lower risk of infections for baby.

The research contributes to a better understanding of what might be happening in mothers with obesity and chronic inflammation. This could lead to strategies or treatments that allow more mothers who wish to breastfeed to do so in the future.

References :

  1. Fatty Acid Transfer from Blood to Milk is Disrupted in Mothers with Low Milk Production, Obesity, and Inflammation – (
  2. Rapid downregulation of adipose tissue lipoprotein lipase activity on food deprivation: evidence that TNF-alpha is involved – (
  3. Gestational weight gain is associated with delayed onset of lactogenesis in the TMCHC study: A prospective cohort study – (

Source: Medindia

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