Many mothers decide to breastfeed their babies due to the many benefits that have been associated with it. Breastmilk has the perfect nutritional profile based on a baby’s needs, which is why it is considered to be exceptionally healthy. When you have diabetes, things may be a bit tougher on you when you decide to breastfeed your newborn. This, however, does not mean it is not possible to choose breastfeeding. We take a closer look at a few factors to keep in mind and share some tips to help you with breastfeeding as a diabetic.
Can You Breastfeed A Baby If You Have Diabetes?
Before we look at a few tips, let’s first consider whether or not you can breastfeed a baby as a mother with diabetes. It is important to understand that there are different types of diabetes:
- Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks beta cells in the pancreas. This leads to insufficient insulin production, which requires additional insulin supplementation – usually provided through injections.
- Type 2 diabetes occurs when cells in the body lose their sensitivity to insulin, which leaves too much glucose circulating in the blood system.
- Gestational diabetes is a type of condition that can occur during pregnancy. If you develop high blood glucose levels without having been previously diagnosed with diabetes while you are pregnant, then you might have gestational diabetes.
While all of these diabetic conditions affect insulin and glucose usage in the body, they do have different ways in which they cause these problems.
The good news is that proper management of your diabetes can make it possible to choose breastfeeding for your newborn baby. You should, however, talk to your doctor. Most medications that are used in the treatment of diabetes will not have an effect on breast milk, but it is still a good idea to confirm this with your healthcare provider.
Benefits Of Choosing Breastfeeding
When it comes to ensuring your newborn gains adequate nutrition, the two main options you can consider include breastfeeding and formula. There are numerous studies that have looked at the potential benefits that come with breastfeeding compared to the use of baby formula. This is why many mothers will choose to breastfeed a newborn, even if just for a short while before they start to give them formula.
Let’s consider some of the main advantages that breastfeeding can offer:
- Breast Milk contains certain antibodies that are great for helping a newborn’s body ward off bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens that can cause illness. One of the most important antibodies that breast milk provides is known as IgA, also known as immunoglobulin A.
Some studies also show that breastfeeding may help to reduce the risk of developing certain diseases in infants. Some of the diseases that breastfeeding may protect against include:
- Allergic conditions like atopic dermatitis and asthma.
- Infections of the respiratory tract
- Damage to the intestines and infections in the digestive system.
- Leukemia during early childhood.
- Bowel conditions like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
Babies who are breastfed also seem to have a lower risk of developing diabetes later in life. This reduced risk accounts for both type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Breastfeeding With Diabetes
As we have noted, there are benefits to breastfeeding over the use of formula. It is also possible for many women who have diabetes to breastfeed their babies. This includes those who develop gestational diabetes throughout their pregnancy, as well as women diagnosed with diabetes prior to their pregnancy.
One thing that you should keep in mind is to start breastfeeding soon after you deliver the baby. During the first few days, make sure you nurse your baby regularly. It’s also important to get sufficient skin-to-skin contact with your baby during these days.
Something that you have to keep an eye out for is hypoglycemia while you are breastfeeding. Hypoglycemia can sometimes lead to severe drowsiness or even cause you to lose consciousness. If this happens, your baby could be in danger. This is why it is important to keep a snack with you while you breastfeed your baby. If you notice any signs of hypoglycemia, then have a snack that will help to raise your blood glucose levels. It is also a good idea to have a snack before you start breastfeeding your newborn. This can help to keep your glucose levels stable.
Another important tip that you should consider is to test your glucose levels both before you start breastfeeding and afterward. This can help you get a better idea of how breastfeeding affects your blood sugar levels. When you are aware of the impact that breastfeeding has, it is easier to implement steps that can help you avoid hypoglycemia or other problems in future feeding sessions.
There are some cases where diabetes causes too many problems for you, which can become an interference in your ability to safely and effectively provide your baby with breastfeeding. There are alternatives that you can consider in this particular situation.
You can consider using a breast pump. This type of system pumps milk from your breasts into a bottle, which you can then use to feed your baby. If you are not producing enough milk, however, then you may need to consider asking the hospital or your healthcare provider for information about donor milk. This can also be a good choice when your availability of breastmilk is limited.
While the formula does not offer the exact same benefits of breastmilk, it’s still a viable option that you can consider. Choosing a high-quality formula can help to ensure your baby still gets the right nutrition to ensure they grow up healthy and without disease.
It is possible for women with diabetes to breastfeed their babies. With this said, careful monitoring of your glucose levels during both pregnancy and breastfeeding is very important. This can help you detect changes in glucose levels early on and ensure you can implement the appropriate actions to avoid complications.