Some pregnant women may develop high blood sugar levels during the later part of pregnancy even though they did not have the condition earlier. This is called gestational diabetes. It is very important to keep the blood sugar level of these patients under control as those with gestational diabetes are at a risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes later in life.
A lot of women with diabetes are very apprehensive and anxious whenever the topic of breastfeeding arises. They frequently ask us whether they can breast feed their babies or not. The answer is a definite yes. Breastfeeding is a simple and natural process which helps to keep the baby in a healthy state. So, even if any mother has diabetes they can and should breastfeed their babies exclusively for six months. Breastfeeding has many proven health benefits not only for the baby but for the mother as well.
What are some common advantages of breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding is beneficial for both mother and the baby and reduces the risk of some health problems in women such as:
Cancer of breast, uterus and ovaries
Breastfeeding improves the glucose metabolism in the mother and thus lowers the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. The initiation of breastfeeding creates a very strong bond between the mother and the baby. It is also seen that mothers who breastfeed their babies tend to lose more weight than those mothers who do not. Breastfeeding also burns extra calories and lowers the need for insulin administration in women with diabetes.
There are some benefits to babies who are breastfed. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of many diseases in infants such as:
Type 1 diabetes
It also tries to improve the immune system of the baby. During breastfeeding there is skin to skin contact, making the baby feel comfortable and giving a sense of security and thus improving the bonding.
Breastfeeding may appear very challenging to mothers suffering from diabetes and hence proper counselling is required to motivate the mother. Diabetic mothers need to talk with their doctor and it is equally important to teach and guide them about the technique of breastfeeding and also discuss the advantages associated with it. Once the mother learns the proper technique of breastfeeding she gains confidence and her anxiety, doubts and fears regarding breastfeeding decreases, which helps her initiate and successfully breastfeed her baby.
Some of the common breastfeeding tips for mothers with diabetes are:
*Blood sugar level should be kept under good control.
*Mothers should breastfeed their babies as soon as they can after delivery.
*There should be proper skin to skin contact between the mother and the baby
*Proper positioning of the baby is equally important during breastfeeding.
*Talk to your doctor if you have diabetes regarding your dosage of insulin, calorie intake and what food to eat and what to avoid.
*Proper dietary advice from a dietician is also essential.
*Many women with diabetes may find that their blood sugar level may fall an hour after breastfeeding, so eating something with a good balance of carbohydrates and protein is required.
*Keep a healthy snack in your bag whenever you go out as well.
*Sometimes mothers may feel thirsty after breastfeeding and hence they should drink plenty of fluids to keep themselves hydrated.
*Sometimes you may need to have a snack before breastfeeding to avoid low blood sugar.
*Check your blood sugar level before and after breastfeeding the baby.
*Try to sleep if possible whenever the baby sleeps because sleep deprivation can affect the health of the mother.
*Diabetic mothers should eat a healthy nutritious diet to stay fit and healthy.
*Consult your baby with a paediatrician on regular basis and monitor the blood sugar of the baby as advised so that everything is one the right track
Besides, it is advisable that mothers with diabetes should feed their babies from both the breasts to avoid inflammation of the breasts (mastitis). However, if you have any problem like a sore nipple or difficulty in feeding, you should consult your doctor and discuss the problems so that they can guide, help and encourage you for breastfeeding.
Most importantly the mother should be happy, stay relaxed, keep the blood sugar under control, take proper care of the baby and enjoy breastfeeding.
(The writer is Consultant, Diabetology, Guwahati.)
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