Discovering you have Gestational Diabetes, or even having already been diagnosed with either Type-1 or Type-2 Diabetes, you might find yourself believing that your diabetes will mean you cannot breastfeed.
But did you know that breastfeeding whilst diabetic can actually help both you and your baby!
Research has shown that breastfeeding can lower the risk of your baby developing diabetes when they are older. The US Department of Health and Human Services in Washington D.C states in their report Blueprint for Action on Breastfeeding that "studies on infant feeding have found lower rates in chronic diseases among children who were breastfed". It also states that "recent findings suggest that breastfeeding may reduce the risk of type-1 and type-2 diabetes."
This is really good news as having a parent with diabetes does increases their risk of developing the condition. But breastfeeding also helps the diabetic mother as it lowers the body's blood sugar and she will find herself needing less insulin to help control her sugar levels. It also lowers the risk that the GD will return as Type-2 diabetes for the mother, as the risk of it developing in later life is significantly higher in someone who has previously had GD.
I remember when I was told I had gestational diabetes when I was around 29wks pregnant. It came as a big shock as I had never considered myself to be at risk of diabetes. I was also worried about whether I could still breastfeed and I was glad I had just weaned DD2. I was reassured by a friend who is a Breastfeeding Supporter for the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers that I could and I should breastfeed the baby.
After my diagnosis, I was put on quite large doses of insulin and was injecting myself 3-times a day. Because of the GD they decided to induce her 2wks early, especially as I had previously had large babies and they were unsure how large she would be with the GD. (She weighed 8lb 15oz and was born 9 days early). The insulin injections were stopped immediately after her birth.
Before she was born, I told the hospital that I was going to breastfeed her and luckily the hospital was very supportive of this and the topic of topping her up with formula (which I was against) was only mentioned once in a "Well they may want you too" comment. She had a few issues with her sugar being low (you have to remember that because of my diabetes, whilst she was in the womb she was also getting extra sugar which meant her body was creating extra insulin to deal with the sugar. Once she was born the extra sugar disappeared and her body had to learn not to make so much insulin) and because of that I found it hard to wake her to nurse her, but kangaroo care (skin to skin contact) helped, especially putting her by the breast so she could smell the breast milk. At one point, when it had been quite a few hours since her last feed and I was struggling to get her to wake, the midwife went to get a syringe to try and feed her expressed milk but by the time she came back I'd managed to get her to latch on.
Despite her low sugars at birth, breastfeeding her little and often helped stabilise her and her sugars and she quickly became more alert and wakeful. She was a little red as well, as she had too many red blood cells attacking her glucose but even that soon disappeared and we were discharged the following day as they were happy with her progress.
That was over 2yrs ago and despite my diagnosis a year ago of Type-2 Diabetes, the baby is still breastfeeding.
So if you have diabetes, whether its gestational, type-1 or type-2, remember you CAN still breastfeed but not only that, it is also better for the both of you if you do!