Pregnant women who have diabetes are more likely to have a lower milk supply for breastfeeding, according to new research.
The Centre for Breastfeeding Medicine at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Centre reports that maternal glucose intolerance could make breastfeeding harder for new mothers.
A study team led by Dr. Sarah Riddle conducted an analysis of 641 electronic medical records of women between June 2011 and May 2013. All participants had given birth within the previous 90 days and planned to breastfeed.
Mothers with diabetes were compared to two other groups: women with low milk supply and no other breastfeeding problems; and mothers experiencing breastfeeding problems, such as latching onto the breast, but had a normal milk supply.
Because the researchers wanted to investigate abnormal glucose metabolism during pregnancy, and not differentiate between diabetes types, diabetes was defined as documentation of gestational diabetes, type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes.
14.9 per cent of the low milk supply group had diabetes, whereas 6.2 per cent of the normal milk supply group had diabetes. The results, after adjustment, showed that women with diabetes were around 2.4 times more likely to have milk supply problems compared to women with latch or nipple problems.
The researchers wrote that “further research is needed to elucidate how maternal glucose intolerance may impede lactatio,” but hypothesise that abnormal insulin action or glucose metabolism can make it harder to sustain regular milk production.
Riddle told Medical News Today: “We are hopeful that with a better understanding of the underlying physiology, targeted therapy may be designed to treat or perhaps prevent this problem. We are currently engaged in a small randomized controlled trial of metformin to treat low milk supply.”
Diabetes and breastfeeding
Breastfeeding is widely considered to be beneficial for both mother and baby, including mothers with diabetes. If you have diabetes, it is imperative to make sure your diabetes is well-controlled during pregnancy and while you are breastfeeding.
Keeping your blood glucose levels stable is important, as poor diabetes control can affect your ability to produce milk. Insulin-treated patients should also note that your body will use glucose from your blood while you are breastfeeding, which can increase the risk of hypoglycemia.

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