What is the connection between diabetes and breastfeeding?

Gestational Diabetes and breastfeeding have long been associated with each. It is a type of diabetes that happens during pregnancy. It is similar to type 1 and 2 diabetes, which causes blood sugar levels to spike, but for a brief span during gestation.

Compared to other types of diabetes, gestational diabetes is only temporary. After delivery, your blood glucose will probably return to its normal levels. However, being diagnosed with gestational diabetes can put you at risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

On the other hand, breastfeeding has shown medical benefits in lowering the risk for type 1 and 2 diabetes, especially in newly born babies. Breastfed babies are less likely to experience asthma or respiratory conditions, ear infections, eczema, obesity, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and other severe medical problems.

On the mother’s side, breastfeeding can minimize her chances of breast cancer, arthritis, hypertension, and ovarian cancer. It also promotes weight loss that mothers put on during their pregnancy.

What is breastfeeding’s role in gestational diabetes?

How are breastfeeding and gestational diabetes interlinked? When women experience high blood sugar levels during their late pregnancy, gestational diabetes happens. It is a condition that occurs even if she has not been previously diagnosed with diabetes prior to pregnancy. Without proper treatment, the disease can advance to type 2 diabetes in the future.

One of the advantages of breastfeeding is that it lowers a mother’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes. According to a study, breastfeeding for more than two months reduced the risks of developing this condition.

What is the effect of gestational diabetes on newly born babies?

Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) is the most common condition that newborn babies experience if their mothers are diagnosed with gestational diabetes. Fortunately, this condition is manageable for both mother and the baby. An infant’s blood sugar levels will become normal and safe by simply breastfeeding and having skin-to-skin contact with the mother.

What should mothers do after childbirth?

After childbirth, always see your healthcare professional to get tested for your blood sugar status. As mentioned, gestational diabetes is the gateway to type 2 diabetes; however, prevention is possible by eating healthily, managing weight, and physically becoming more active.

You can also take diabetes medications like metformin or insulin. Although taking these medications while breastfeeding is entirely safe, it is better to let your doctor confirm how safe it is for the mother and the infant.

Here are also tips for mothers to follow if they have diabetes:

  • Breastfeed your baby after childbirth.
  • Nurse your baby several times daily.
  • Practice skin-to-skin contact with your baby.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water.
  • Constantly monitor your blood sugar levels.
  • Have a snack ready with you when you are nursing your baby. It will help you raise your blood sugar if hypoglycemia occurs, especially when breastfeeding.