Providing nutrients to their developing young is perhaps the most energetically demanding task facing female mammals. In this paper we focus primarily on studies carried out in rats to describe the changes in the maternal brain that enable the dam to meet the energetic demands of her offspring. In rats, providing milk for their litter is associated with a dramatic increase in caloric intake, a reduction in energy expenditure and changes in the pattern of energy utilization as well as storage. These behavioral and physiological adaptations result, in part, from alterations in the central pathways controlling energy balance. Differences in circulating levels of metabolic hormones such as leptin, ghrelin and insulin as well as in responsiveness to these signals between lactating and nonlactating animals, contribute to the modifications in energy balance pathways seen postpartum. Suckling stimulation from the pups both directly, and through the hormonal state that it induces in the mother, plays a key role in facilitating these adaptations.

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Keywords Energy balance, Estrogen, Ghrelin, Hypothalamus, Leptin, Mother-young interactions, Prolactin
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Journal Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology
Woodside, B. (Barbara), Budin, R. (Radek), Wellman, M.K. (Martin K.), & Abizaid, A. (2012). Many mouths to feed: The control of food intake during lactation. Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology (Vol. 33, pp. 301–314). doi:10.1016/j.yfrne.2012.09.002