PCOS is a syndrome that affects women in various ways. Many women with PCOS breastfeed their babies without any special problems. However, research shows that mothers with PCOS struggle with low milk supply more often than other mothers. There are several ways in which PCOS may negatively affect your milk supply.
Breast Development and PCOS
A girl’s glandular tissue, i.e. the milk making system, begins to develop during puberty. Each menstrual cycle is a new period of growth. The breasts of girls who show signs of PCOS early on, especially a lack of menstrual cycles, do not fully develop. The breasts may maintain a prepubescent appearance or they may seem to grow but are actually filled mostly with fat and lack glandular tissue. Our breasts normally undergo a final and crucial stage of development during pregnancy. Women with PCOS don’t always experience this stage. This could be due to a lack of infrastructure in the breast or hormonal imbalances during pregnancy. A lack of glandular tissue results in a lack of breast milk.
Breasts with insufficient glandular tissue have several appearances besides prepubescent; one breast significantly larger than the other with a wide space between them, cone shaped or long breasts with large cone shaped areolas or breasts that seem to be missing fat in certain areas. The way the breasts appear is not conclusive of how much milk will be produced but a red flag that there may be problems.
PCOS, Hormones and Milk Supply
PCOS often results in hormonal problems such as high androgens, low prolactin levels, thyroid problems and insulin resistance, which can affect your milk supply. If you have PCOS and are struggling to make enough milk, it is worthwhile to have these hormones checked and to treat the specific problem. Women with PCOS induced insulin resistance can boost their milk supplies considerably by taking metformin. Many women with PCOS take metformin during pregnancy regardless of their insulin levels and have good results breastfeeding.
If you took medications to balance your thyroid in order to conceive, you should recheck it after the birth for your general well being and milk supply. A low thyroid will lead to a low milk supply.
Prolactin levels can be boosted by metoclopramide or domperidone. Metoclopramide is not recommended to women who are prone to depression. Domperidone is a safer alternative.
There are certain herbs that seem especially helpful in increasing the milk supply for women with PCOS. According to Lisa Marasco, author of The Breastfeeding Mother’s Guide To Making More Milk, Goat’s Rue is especially helpful followed by saw palmetto and chasteberry.
Is it the PCOS?
Any mother can have a low milk supply if breastfeeding is not managed correctly. It is important to rule out other problems, such as bad latch or scheduled feeds, before assuming that your low milk supply is a result of PCOS. Since having PCOS puts you at a higher risk, you will want to learn more about breastfeeding and do what you can to maximize milk production from the beginning. A lactation consultant can help you avoid problems and solve them if they occur. Remember that breastfeeding is much more than just food. You do not need to produce a full milk supply to enjoy nurturing your baby at your breast.