The Importance of Nutritional Demands During Lactation

Lactation is very energy expensive and imposes a heavy nutritional burden on the female, much heavier in fact than during pregnancy. If the pups start nursing correctly, a white patch can be seen in the stomach from P1 to P3, and is referred to as milk spot. Lactation is regarded as successful when the pups are gaining an appropriate amount of weight and achieving standard growth. Indeed, the mouse achieves one-third of its total growth during the suckling period, and if the female does not consume the extra calories, then body stores are used to maintain lactation. It is thus very important to maintain the females on appropriate nutrition to not deplete them, especially in high volume breeding colonies.

Omega-3 for the Pups

Fatty acids, notably omega-3s, have been shown to play a role in brain development and to improve visual acuity and cognitive development. Pups fed with by females producing a milk rich in omega-3 open their eyes earlier and have higher visual placing scores at an earlier age (1). On the other hand, Omega-3 deficiency showed decreased behavioral testing scores and cognitive capability, as well as impaired neural transmission (2). Omega-3 fatty acids also inhibit inflammation and bacterial growth in pregnant mice and reduce the number and severity of preterm births, miscarriages, and stillbirths (3). As mammals are unable to synthesize omega−3s, they can only obtain it through diet. DietGel® Prenatal contains fish oil and flax seeds, providing 2.2% Omega-3 fatty acids, and a total of 15.2% fat.

Calcium and Vitamin D for the Female

Calcium is critical during infancy in order to build strong bones. Lactating rodents face a particularly high demand for calcium supply to their pups, because of the relatively large litters and short duration of lactation. Calcium from the female skeleton is released by osteolysis (resorption of bone) in order to provide enough calcium for milk production (4). In parallel, intestinal calcium absorption, mediated by vitamin D, is highly increased during gestation and lactation in order to offset the calcium loss for the female. However, if not enough calcium or vitamin D is provided in the diet during lactation, hypocalcemia can occur, leading to bone fragility or fractures, tetany or even sudden death (5). DietGel® Prenatal contains 280mg of calcium and over 1000IU of vitamin D for 100g, supplementing standard rodent chow during lactation high nutritional needs for the female. After weaning, the skeleton mineral content and strength is fully restored to its original values.

Maternal stress and anxiety can decrease milk production, so make sure to keep your mice relaxed and happy! For more information on breeding colony management, download our Best Practices for Rodent Colony Planning, Breeding Support, and Pup Health Guide. To try our products first hand, Request a Sample


(1) Neonatal Growth Rate and Development of Mice Raised on Milk Transgenically Enriched With Omega-3 Fatty Acids – K Bongiovanni et al., Pediatric Research 2007
(2) Excess and deficient omega-3 fatty acid during pregnancy and lactation cause impaired neural transmission in rat pups – MW Church et al., Neurotoxicology and teratology 2008
(3) Omega-3 fatty acids suppress Fusobacterium nucleatum-induced placental inflammation originating from maternal endothelial cells – J Garcia-So et al., JCI insight 2019
(4) The Skeleton Is a Storehouse of Mineral That Is Plundered During Lactation and (Fully?) Replenished Afterwards – CS Kovacs, Journal of Bone and Mineral Research 2017
(5) Maternal Mineral and Bone Metabolism During Pregnancy, Lactation, and Post-Weaning Recovery – CS Kovacs, Physiological reviews 2016


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