Some pregnant women may develop high blood sugar during the latter part of pregnancy, even if they did not have the disease earlier. This is called gestational diabetes. It is very important to control blood sugar levels in these patients because people with gestational diabetes are at risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
Many women with diabetes are very worried and anxious when the topic of breastfeeding comes up. They frequently ask us if they can breastfeed their baby or not. The answer is an emphatic yes. Breastfeeding is a simple and natural process that helps keep the baby healthy. So even if a mother has diabetes, she can and should exclusively breastfeed her baby for six months. Breastfeeding has many health benefits, not only for the baby, but also for the mother.
What are the common benefits of breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding is beneficial for both mother and baby and reduces the risk of certain health problems in women such as:
Breast, uterine and ovarian cancer
Breastfeeding improves glucose metabolism in the mother and thus reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The initiation of breastfeeding creates a very strong bond between mother and baby. It is also found that mothers who breastfeed their babies tend to lose more weight than mothers who do not. Breastfeeding also burns extra calories and reduces the need for insulin administration in women with diabetes.
There are certain benefits for babies who are breastfed. Breastfeeding reduces the risk of many diseases in infants such as:
Type 1 diabetes
It also tries to improve the baby’s immune system. During breastfeeding, there is skin-to-skin contact, which makes the baby feel comfortable and gives him a sense of security and thus improves the bond.
Breastfeeding can seem very difficult for mothers with diabetes and therefore proper counseling is needed to motivate the mother. Diabetic mothers need to discuss this with their doctor and it is equally important to teach and guide them on breastfeeding technique and also discuss the benefits associated with it. Once the mother learns the proper breastfeeding technique, she gains confidence and her anxiety, doubts and fears regarding breastfeeding are reduced, 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 well controlled.
*Mothers should breastfeed their babies as soon as they can after delivery.
* There must be good skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby
* Proper positioning of the baby is equally important during breastfeeding.
* Talk to your doctor if you have diabetes about your insulin dosage, calorie intake, and foods 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 levels may drop an hour after breastfeeding, so it is necessary to eat something with a good balance of carbohydrates and proteins.
* Also keep a healthy snack in your bag every time you go out.
* Sometimes mothers may feel thirsty after breastfeeding and therefore need to drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.
* Sometimes you may need to have a snack before breastfeeding to avoid low blood sugar.
*Check your blood sugar before and after breastfeeding the baby.
* Try to sleep whenever possible whenever the baby sleeps, as lack of sleep can affect the mother’s health.
* Diabetic mothers should have a healthy and nutritious diet to stay fit and healthy.
*Visit your baby regularly with a pediatrician and monitor the baby’s blood sugar as instructed so everything is on track
Also, diabetic mothers are advised to feed their babies from both breasts to avoid breast inflammation (mastitis). However, if you have a problem like a sore nipple or difficulty feeding, you should see your doctor and discuss the issues so they can guide, help and encourage you to breastfeed.
Most importantly, the mother should be happy, stay relaxed, control her blood sugar, take care of her baby and enjoy breastfeeding.
(The author is Consultant, Diabetology, Guwahati.)