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For women with type 2 diabetes

Breastfeeding and diabetes

Breastfeeding has many benefits, both for you and your baby. These include benefits for your baby’s immune system, growth and development, and it can also help with bonding between you and your baby. Breastfeeding may also reduce the risk of your baby developing diabetes later in life. It may also help you with returning to your pre-pregnancy weight.

Most women with diabetes are able to breastfeed their babies. It’s important to keep in mind though, that breastfeeding may need some practice, support and persistence.

It’s a good idea to find out as much as you can about breastfeeding from your midwife or a lactation consultant before your baby is due. A lactation consultant is a specially trained health professional who can provide information, support and advice about breastfeeding. Ask your midwife or obstetrician about how to access a lactation consultant in your local area.

Women with diabetes sometimes find that there is a delay with their breast milk ‘coming in’. The milk usually comes in on the third or fourth day after the birth, but it may be delayed by 24 to 48 hours. If your baby is born early it can sometimes be more challenging to establish breastfeeding initially.

Your midwife or lactation consultant may discuss with you the option of antenatal expressing and storing colostrum (early breast milk) before the birth of your baby. It’s important to note however, that the advantages and disadvantages of antenatal expressing for mother and baby are still being researched. Ask your diabetes in pregnancy team for advice.

Skin-to-skin contact and early breastfeeding as soon as possible after delivery is recommended. Breastfeeding at least every three to four hours during the first few days will help your baby maintain their blood glucose levels. If your baby is at high risk of hypoglycaemia, you may be advised to breastfeed at least every three hours.

If your baby is in the nursery, ask your midwife about expressing milk (colostrum) within the first four hours of your baby’s birth. Your breasts make milk on a supply-and-demand basis. If you express, your breasts will keep producing milk which you can then give to your baby by bottle, spoon or tube.

Your midwife or lactation consultant can support you to establish breastfeeding and tell you about various strategies for successful breastfeeding. Most Australian hospitals have baby-friendly health initiatives to help support early breastfeeding.

Although any breastfeeding can be of benefit for you and your baby’s health, current guidelines recommend exclusive breastfeeding to around 6 months of age (when solid foods are introduced), then continued breastfeeding until 12 months of age or beyond.

Establishing breastfeeding can take time and sometimes be a little challenging, so make sure you get all the information and support you need. If despite your best intentions and efforts, breastfeeding doesn’t work out, you may need extra emotional support at this time.

For breastfeeding information and support, contact the National Breastfeeding Helpline on 1800 686 268. Support is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Local breastfeeding support networks are also available in hospitals and in the local community. Ask your midwife, lactation consultant or child and family health nurse for more information.

Diabetes Australia acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of this Country. We recognise their connection to land, waters, winds and culture. We pay the upmost respect to them, their cultures and to their Elders, past and present. We are committed to improving health outcomes for all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people affected by diabetes and those at risk.

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