Endocrine and Metabolic Conditions

Lactation is partially controlled by the endocrine system. For this reason, if a mother has an endocrine and/or metabolic problem, it can hinder breastfeeding, due to hormone irregularities.

These problems with breastfeeding can sometimes be overcome, and there are significant advantages for the mother who continues to breastfeed, in connection with health. 


Diabetes

  • Gestational diabetes: Women who have GD “gestational diabetes" are twice as likely to develop type II diabetes if they do not breastfeed. 
  • Type I diabetes: Women with this type of diabetes have lower prolactin levels, and this can delay the onset of milk “coming in." Babies have a high risk of hypoglycemia immediately after birth. Frequent colostrum feedings will help stabilize blood sugar levels. The mother should feed her baby between 10 – 12 times per 24 hours to establish a good milk supply. Early introduction of cow protein, which is in formula as well, can increase the risk of triggering diabetes in the baby; for this reason, it is best to continue breastfeeding or to use donor breast milk if possible. Diabetic women who breastfeed need less insulin than mothers who do not, so mothers will need to adjust their insulin dose as needed. Mothers who have diabetes may be more susceptible to yeast infections and mastitis, especially if they do not control their glucose levels. 
  • Type II diabetes: Moms with type II diabetes may struggle with low milk supply, PCOS as well as hypothyroidism.


Polycystic Ovary Syndrome

This condition usually causes a low milk supply, but the degree of difficulty varies from woman to woman. Women who have breastfed more than once, typically find that their milk supply increases with each birth. 

Some tips for Moms with PCOS who are breastfeeding

Learn more about breastfeeding with PCOS.


Thyroid Problems

thyroid, thyroid gland

Hypothyroidism is usually associated with low milk supply. Women with thyroid problems have an increased risk of thyroid cancer, but women who breastfeed for more extended periods have a decreased risk of cancer. 


Cystic Fibrosis

Some might feel that the strain of breastfeeding would be too much for a mother to handle with cystic fibrosis. It is essential that the weight of both the mother and her baby is monitored. The breast milk of a mother with CF may contain less fat, but it is usually sufficient for the baby’s needs. Calorie and vitamin supplements may be recommended for the mother to take. 

Mothers with CF are more prone to bacterial pathogens, breastfeeding will help protect her baby from these. 

Learn more about Cystic fibrosis in children. 


Phenylketonuria (PKU)

Moms with PKU should breastfeed to avoid complications of the disease. Learn more about PKU here. 


Galactosemia

Can a grown woman with Galactosemia breastfeed her baby? 

Yes. Milk from a mother who has Galactosemia does contain lactose, despite the lack of lactose in her diet. Her milk also includes all the nutrients necessary for healthy development. 


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Tracy Behr, CBC, CLD (CBI)

Reference: Course information through Childbirth International on the physiology of breastfeeding / health problems/endocrine and metabolic conditions.


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