Breastfeeding has a powerful effect on maternal metabolism, reducing energy expenditure while using up to 500 calories every day. You might imagine that those changes would bring their own insulin-related chaos, but the body is a skilled adapter that has evolved to care of you and your baby. Breastfeeding reduces the impact of your hormone imbalance and helps young mothers to lose that post-birth weight, so your diabetes should be a little easier to manage.
Lactating women display better blood lipid profiles and insulin sensitivity during the first four months after birth. Perhaps one of breastfeeding’s best consequences is its boosted love hormone levels, which ease stress and anxiety while creating an inextricable bond between you and baby. All of those effects make diabetes more manageable, and a steady weaning process will help you to adjust later on.
Coping with Gestational Diabetes
If you were diagnosed with gestational diabetes, breastfeeding is one of the most effective healing tools at your disposal, helping reduce your blood sugar and control your weight. Gestational diabetes sufferers are generally advised to breastfeed for three months to reduce their baby’s risk of obesity, but you may have some trouble regulating your insulin levels for a month or two after giving birth. You might need to add an extra 500 calories to your daily diet, distributing your carbohydrates and proteins evenly throughout the day. Check your blood sugar regularly and do a few hours of moderate exercise each week to reduce your risk of developing complications. Gestational diabetes increases your odds of developing type-2 diabetes, so you’ll need to watch your blood sugar levels up to six weeks after giving birth.
The Benefits of Breastfeeding for Diabetic Mothers
Breastfeeding tends to change your insulin levels, so you’ll probably need to learn an entirely new management schedule. If you have type 1 diabetes, breastfeeding will generally reduce the amount of insulin you need. You’re at risk of a raised BMI and reduced creatine levels so keep an eye on your exercise and food intake. Transient insulin independence affects many type 1 mothers, so you might need to reduce your insulin dosage during breastfeeding. Once you’ve weaned, you may undergo a second “honeymoon” period where your insulin levels become unpredictable. They will settle eventually.
Type 2 mothers often metabolise glucose more efficiently during breastfeeding and enjoy fewer health risks. Diet and exercise are the treatments of choice for this kind of diabetes, but new motherhood is exhausting and time-consuming. It’s tough to keep up with your old exercise routines. Just one month of breastfeeding can make up for much of your lost physical activity, improving your BMI all on its own.
Other breastfeeding benefits include:
- Suppressed periods and more balanced monthly hormone levels.
- A reduced risk of developing type-1 diabetes for baby
- A reduced risk of developing high blood pressure for the mother. That, in turn, reduces your risk of developing diabetes complications.
- A more stable glycaemic pattern.
- If your baby has hypoglycemia, early breastfeeding can prevent related problems.
How Diabetes Affects Breastfeeding
Breastfeeding with diabetes isn’t completely straightforward. Your diabetes might delay or reduce your mature milk and increase your risk of developing postpartum difficulties. Infants who experienced higher blood sugar levels before birth tend to breastfeed more, which doubles down on decreases in lactogenesis. Breastfeeding within the first hour after your baby is born can reduce those problems, as can frequent expression when you’re not able to breastfeed. If the baby has low blood sugar levels, breastfeeding more often can address the problem. Simple snacks and postpartum support groups go a long way, too, so get in touch with your local groups and do a few classes.
Diabetes can make it difficult to build and maintain milk supply, particularly when your blood sugars are abnormal. Drinking more water and keeping a steady diet can help, but if your milk production is delayed, you might need to use a breast pump. At O’Flynn Medical, we stock hospital grade breast pumps like the Ameda Elite Double Breast Pump and the Ameda Finesse Breast Pump. Pumping can be carried out in between breast feeding sessions or while your baby is feeding from the other breast. Use protective breast flanges to protect your nipples while breast pumping. Some babies with diabetic mothers have a poor sucking reflex, which can make natural breastfeeding difficult. If this affects you, you may need to use a tube or bottle.
Insulin’s molecules are too big to pass into breastmilk, so it’s been proven safe to take during breastfeeding. Metformin is also regarded as safe, although it might pass into breast milk in minuscule amounts. Modern diabetes medications like incretins and SGLT-2 inhibitors haven’t yet been studied in breastfeeding mothers, so you might have to change your treatment plan temporarily. Most drugs for high blood pressure aren’t safe for this phase of your life either. Many mothers do poorly on insulin and decide to stop breastfeeding as a result. Every case is unique, so discuss your options with your doctor in depth.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding are difficult to separate. If you don’t use the requisite prenatal diabetes management tools, you might set yourself up for breastfeeding failure, so start early with antenatal care. If you experience any problems, it’s important to seek skilled help early when problems are easier to fix.