The diagnosis of diabetes is on the rise and can pose many challenges on a person’s health, especially for a new mom. Breastfeeding can be done successfully if a mom has diabetes and it is the ideal choice for feeding her baby. It can also help a mom control her blood sugars in order to manage her disease.
Diabetes is a metabolic disease that occurs either because the pancreas does not produce enough insulin, or because the body’s cells do not respond to the insulin that is produced. Insulin is the hormone needed to regulate blood sugars. Medications, insulin shots, diet, and exercise are most commonly used to manage the disease. Breastfeeding is another way to help regulate a mom’s blood sugars because it increases her metabolism and can often reduce the amount of insulin or medication needed.
Lactating women require extra energy intake (about 400 extra calories daily) and should eat regular meals and snacks to avoid low blood sugars. Blood sugar levels should be monitored closely when breastfeeding with diabetes. Low blood sugars can negatively affect letdown and may decrease the amount of milk the baby will get, which can result in low weight gain for the infant.
Babies that are born to mothers with diabetes are at higher risk for developing the disease later in life. Research suggests that infants who are breastfed are less likely to develop chronic diseases, such as diabetes. Breastfeeding the first few days of a baby’s life can greatly help stabilize their blood sugars after birth.
Both mom and baby have delicate physiological balances that need adjusting after the delivery process. Breastfeeding can help reduce stress, increase metabolism, and help achieve optimal hormonal balance, which is especially important for a mom with diabetes.
By Kelly Martin, MCD, RD, CLE