Breastfeeding and Diabetes


The Advantages of Continued Nursing

Australian breastfeeding hold, breastfeeding upright

Should you be breastfeeding while diabetic? What about breastfeeding and type 2 diabetes?

Yes, a diabetic mother can continue to breastfeed her baby. Whether you have type 1, 2 or gestational diabetes, you can and should continue to breastfeed. Diabetic mothers are advised to breastfeed their babies exclusively for 6 months or longer.


Does insulin pass through my breast milk?


No, the insulin molecule is too large to pass through into your breast milk.



Why is it Important to Breastfeed if You have Diabetes?

  • It lowers your baby’s risk of developing diabetes.
  • Colostrum helps to stabilize a baby’s blood sugar levels after birth.
  • It helps the mother lose weight.
  • It helps the body utilize insulin more efficiently.
  • It lowers the need for insulin.
  • Oxytocin released while breastfeeding will help a mother feel better physically and emotionally. Stress can aggravate diabetes, so this is a big huge advantage. Learn more about the amazing benefits of breastfeeding.



Solid foods should be introduced only after 6 months of life, especially if there is a risk for diabetes.



Tips for Breastfeeding with Diabetes

  • Diabetic mothers should always eat something that contains a combination of protein and carbs before a breastfeeding session.
  • Mothers who breastfeed will need to increase their calories daily, diabetic mothers who breastfeed need to increase their calories by an extra 500 (spread out through the day). 
  • A diabetic mother's milk might take longer to "come in" after her baby's birth. If her baby needs to be supplemented within those first few days, while her milk is coming in, she should try to get donor breast milk if possible. A Hypoallergenic formula can be given if no donor breast milk is available.
  • During those first few days, while you are waiting for your milk to "come in," you need to continue to breastfeed at least 10 times per day. The more your breasts are stimulated, the more milk you will produce. Do not replace breastfeeding with pumping sessions, instead of pump in-between breastfeeding sessions, or use a lact-aid to supplement baby.
  • Maintain lots of skin to skin contact with your baby, this will trigger the hormones that produce milk.
  • Breastfeed your baby as soon as possible after delivery.
  • Always keep a close eye on your blood sugar levels.
  • Extra calcium is needed (about 1000mg daily).
  • Make sure that your baby is latched on properly. Mothers with diabetes have an increased risk of thrush and mastitis, which is why it is essential for them to look after their nipples and drain their breasts regularly. 
  • Stay relaxed while breastfeeding.

If a mother has gestational diabetes, breastfeeding can prevent her from developing type 2 diabetes, later on in her life.



Diabetes Breastfeeding Warnings

  • Newborn baby jaundice is also more common in babies whose mothers have diabetes.
  • When weaning, a diabetic mother should do so very gradually, if she doesn’t, she has a risk of it affecting her insulin levels.
  • Avoid herbs like fenugreek, which have an effect on blood sugar levels.
  • If you have type 2 diabetes and are on oral medication, you should discuss with your doctor about the healthiest medication that can be taken for you and your baby.
  • Do not drink alcohol, as it can decrease milk let down and also increase your risk of hypoglycemia if you take insulin.


The Research of Breastfeeding and Diabetes Risk

Should I Continue Breastfeeding? I Am Juvenile Type 1 Diabetes

by Anonymous

"I have been a juvenile diabetic type 1, and I am a new mom - my baby is one month old, and I had to get a c-section and early labor.

I have been breastfeeding my baby since I gave birth. Should I continue breastfeeding? Will my baby get diabetes as she's growing? Is there a risk of her developing diabetes while breastfeeding?"


Answer

by: Tracy

"Whether you have type 1, 2 or gestational diabetes, you can and should continue to breastfeed.

Diabetic mothers are advised to breastfeed their babies exclusively for six months or longer. Breastfeeding will lower your baby’s risk of developing diabetes.

Other advantages of continued breastfeeding include:

* Colostrum helps to stabilize a baby’s blood sugar levels after birth.

* Breastfeeding will help your body utilize insulin more efficiently.

* Breastfeeding will lower your body's need for insulin.

* The hormone Oxytocin released while breastfeeding will help you feel better, physically and emotionally.

The other benefits of breastfeeding that are unrelated to diabetes are discussed here: The benefits of breastfeeding."


Can Diabetes Affect Milk Production?

by Myra

(Phoenix, AZ)

"I've been type two diabetic, for about four years. When I first found out I was pregnant, I was stressed, and due to my diabetes, I had to take insulin shots. To top it off, I had to have a c-section because of some health complications - my complications not hers.

During my stay at the hospital I was on Magnesium and so was told not to breastfeed my baby, but I was still pumping.

To make a long story short my baby is now two months, and the most milk I have produced is 1 ml every two hours, I had to give her formula because it wasn't enough for her.

Can diabetes affect the production of milk?"


Answer

by Tracy

Hi, Myra.

"Yes, it does mess around with milk production, some diabetic moms only really start producing a full amount of milk at eight months after giving birth.

You will need to keep your blood sugar regulated too, as this can cause a rise and fall in milk production as well."

Can You Give Your Child Diabetes by Breastfeeding?

by Dayalan K

(Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India.)

"My fiance has type 2 diabetes. We are going to get married in the next year and we would both love to have a baby. Could we have a child without it being detrimental to her health? Would diabetes affect our baby?

My fiance keeps her blood sugar at normal levels. Would we need to give the baby any medication? What foods are good for the baby's health and the mother's health during the pregnancy? Would we need to take any special precautions during delivery? Can my fiance feed her child regularly? And for how long should she breastfeed?"


Answer

by Tracy 

"Breastfeeding will lower your baby’s risk of developing diabetes.

You will need to get an Obstetrician during her pregnancy, who will monitor her and your baby’s health.

The best way to avoid any problems is if she continues to control her blood sugar levels, this is vital. Good control over blood sugar levels will reduce the risk of miscarriage, premature labor, congenital disabilities, having a large baby and will reduce the risk of preeclampsia, which are all higher risks in mothers with diabetes.

Some tips to remember:

* She should check her blood sugar levels often.

* Ask your doctor about changing her medications. Some recommend insulin instead of oral medications during pregnancy.

* During the last three months of pregnancy, there are hormones produced by the placenta that help the baby grow that can block the effect of insulin in your system. As a result, you may need to use more insulin than usual. Do not worry about insulin passing into breast milk; this is not possible as the insulin molecules are too small.

* Talk to your doctor about taking a multivitamin that contains folic acid.

* It would be a great idea to get a dietitian during this time.

Exercise

She should choose a few activities that she enjoys doing and stick to these, aim to exercise at least 2 hours per week.

A stationary bike, swimming or brisk walking are great moderate activities to consider during pregnancy; she must remember to check her blood sugar levels before and after any exercise.

After Delivery

"It is important to continue checking blood sugar levels especially because she is planning to breastfeed.

She must breastfeed for at least six months, breastfeeding will lower your baby’s risk of developing diabetes - colostrum will also help to stabilize your baby’s blood sugar levels after birth. Breastfeeding will help mom relax and decrease the risk of postpartum depression.

She will need to take in an extra 500 calories daily while breastfeeding. She should try to eat a small snack before every breastfeeding session, which contains a combination of carbs and protein.

Breastfeed the baby as often as possible, especially if her milk does not "mature" or "come in" within the first three days (delayed milk onset is a common occurrence in diabetic moms.) She should avoid common herbs that are used to increase breast milk supply as these may affect her blood sugar levels.

Hope this helps."




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