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Breastfeeding and diabetes, for women with type 2 diabetes

Breastfeeding has many benefits, both for you and your baby. Most women with diabetes are able to breastfeed their babies. It is important to keep in mind, though, that breastfeeding may require some practice, support and persistence.

Breastfeeding and diabetes

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

It is a good idea to see a lactation consultant four to five weeks before your baby is due to find out as much as you can about breastfeeding. You can also discuss diabetes and breastfeeding and how to cope with any challenges you may come across.

The 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.

Early breastfeeding

Breastfeeding your baby as soon as possible after delivery and then at least every three to four hours during the first few days will maintain your baby’s blood glucose levels. If your baby is at high risk of hypoglycaemia, you will be advised to breastfeed more often (at least every three hours).

If you don’t have your baby with you, 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.

Information and support

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.

If you don’t plan to breastfeed for long, remember that just six to eight weeks of breastfeeding will still give your baby many benefits, including immunity from infections.

Breastfeeding may also reduce the chance of your baby developing diabetes later in life.

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