Should Women with Diabetes Breastfeed?

Moms who have diabetes of any kind (type 1, type 2 or diabetes during pregnancy) are no different from other moms in many ways. Unfortunately, though, they are less likely to start breastfeeding their newborns and to continue it for at least two months, according to a recent study done by a researcher here at Nationwide Children’s Hospital. But why?

Although women with diabetes did have some of the same reasons as other moms for not starting breastfeeding or for stopping within two months, the researchers found that their decision involved factors many new mothers don’t have to worry about: diabetic illness and medications.

Can Women With Diabetes Safely Breastfeed?
Yes! According to the American Diabetes Association, most diabetes medications are safe to use when breastfeeding. You should always consult your doctor, but don’t let diabetes keep you from nursing your baby. Breastfeeding is also safe for women who control their diabetes with diet instead of medication.

One potential complication for nursing moms with diabetes is that breastfeeding may affect blood sugar levels. You may need to eat more snacks, drink extra water, adjust your medication or perform additional blood glucose testing. Talk with a doctor or dietitian about a good meal and medication plan for the months you intend to breastfeed.

Should Women with Diabetes Breastfeed?
Yes, if they want to! Women with diabetes of any kind — including pregnancy-related diabetes — can help themselves and their babies by breastfeeding. Although newborns whose moms have type 2 diabetes have an increased risk of developing the condition themselves, breastfeeding can actually make it less likely for those babies to develop it. Studies also show that babies who are breastfed for six months or longer have a lower risk of obesity, asthma, high blood pressure, infections and other problems than infants who are not breastfeed.

Furthermore, nursing mothers with any type of diabetes also benefit from breastfeeding, which has been shown to improve bonding and help speed weight loss after pregnancy. More importantly, you can reduce your own future risk of obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and a number of cancers.

The takeaway message is this: Don’t let diabetes of any kind stop you from breastfeeding your baby if that is what you want to do. If you want advice on managing your diabetes so that you can breastfeed your baby successfully, we can help you.

Read our breastfeeding tips or contact our Clinical Nutrition and Lactation team for more information about breastfeeding despite — or because of — your diabetes.

Katie Brind'Amour, MS
Katie Brind’Amour, MS, CHES, is a Senior Science Writer and Editor for Nationwide Children’s Hospital. She lives in Reynoldsburg with her husband and an excitable mutt, and she is anxiously awaiting the birth of her first baby boy. In her free time, she loves to cook, travel and scour Netflix for addictive new shows.

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