Breastfeeding And PCOS: 6 Things Women Need To Know

Why Women with PCOS May Have More Difficulty Breastfeeding

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The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends women breast feed their babies exclusively for the first six months of their lives and continue until the infant is at least one year old. This is because breast milk provides unparalleled benefits to formula feeding. Nothing can match the immune boosting properties of breast milk or how it can help promote postpartum weight loss in new moms or possibly reduce the risk of some cancers.

But what if a woman with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) wants to nurse her baby but suddenly can’t? Some research indicates that women with PCOS may have difficulties breastfeeding their babies and producing enough milk. Here’s what you need to know.

 

Women With PCOS May Have More Difficulty Producing Adequate Milk Supply

Not all women with PCOS have a difficult time breastfeeding their babies (some have reported making an overabundance of milk), but many do. Researchers have speculated that the reason why some women may have difficulty breast-feeding and producing an adequate milk supply for their infants is because of the many hormonal imbalances associated with PCOS. The hormonal aberrations in PCOS involve insulin, progesterone, prolactin, and estrogen, all of which are important to breast development and milk-secreting ability.

 

Women With PCOS Have Changes In Breast Tissue Development

Some women with PCOS may have more difficulty producing adequate milk because the breast tissue fails to undergo the normal physiological changes during pregnancy needed to prepare for lactation or perhaps because not enough breast tissue existed prior to pregnancy. Women with PCOS have low levels of progesterone, which is needed for alveolar growth and breast tissue development.

Insulin also plays a role in milk production, and having insulin resistance and even being overweight, may contribute to lactation problems in women with PCOS.

 

Don’t Be Shy, Consult With A Lactation Consultant

Milk supply problems may be prevented or ameliorated by establishing early intervention strategies during pregnancy. This may include obtaining resources for local breastfeeding support groups and preparing to work with a board-certified lactation consultant soon after giving birth. You can find a lactation consultant near you by contacting the La Leche League.

After giving birth, let the nurses know you would like to consult with a lactation consultant while you are in the hospital. Good breast-feeding management, including proper latch and positioning, are imperative to successful milk production and proper infant growth and development. A lactation consultant can help you make sure your using the right positioning and that your baby is latched on correctly.

 

Take Precautions To Maximize Milk Supply

As a precaution, lactation consultants recommend that women with PCOS pump after feedings for at least 10 to 15 minutes on each breast to help establish an adequate milk supply in the first two weeks of initiating nursing. For mothers with a low milk supply, extra breast stimulation via frequent nursing or pumping sessions is crucial. Skin-to-skin contact (often referred to as Kangaroo care) is also encouraged to boost milk production.

 

Supplement To Boost Milk Supply

Herbal supplements such as goat’s rue, fennel, kale, verbena, chasteberry, and fenugreek are safe to use while nursing and may be used to increase milk supply. Using progesterone supplements during pregnancy may also help support an adequate milk supply in women with PCOS and possibly support breast development during pregnancy. Medications such as metoclopramide may also be prescribed to boost milk supply.

 

Breastfeeding Doesn’t Have To Be All-Or-Nothing

If you struggle with low milk supply even with the interventions mentioned, don’t feel bad about having to use formula to supplement or replace some nursing sessions. Always remember that some breast milk is better than no breast milk because it provides unmatched immunity and protection against disease in you and your baby.

 

Sources

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Grassi A. Pregnancy, Lactation, and the Postpartum Period. In, PCOS: The Dietitian’s Guide, 2nd edition. Luca Publishing 2013. Bryn Mawr, PA.

Waldoks DA. PCOS: Breastfeeding case study. Women’s Health Report. Summer 2008.

Vanky E, Isaksen H, Moen MH, Carlsen SM. Breastfeeding in polycystic ovary syndrome.  Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2008; 87(5):531-5.

Vanky E, Nordskar JJ, Leithe H, Jorth-Hansen AK, Martinussen M, Carlsen SM. Breast size increment during pregnancy and breastfeeding in mothers with polycystic ovary syndrome: a follow-up study of a randomized controlled trial on metformin versus placebo. BJOG. 2012 Oct;110(11):1403-9.

Foote J, Rengers B. Maternal use of herbal supplements. Nutrition in Complementary Care. 2000;1.

Cartwright M. Herbal use during pregnancy and lactation: A need for caution. The Digest. 2001;(Summer):1-3. American Dietetic Association Public Health/Community Nutrition Practice Group.

Briggs GG, Ambrose PJ, Nageotte MP, Padilla G, Wan S. Excretion of metformin into breast milk and the effect on nursing infants. Obstet Gynecol. 2005;105(6):1437-1441.

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