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Diabetes and Breastfeeding

Can I breastfeed?

Yes you can. You may have recently found out that you have developed diabetes in your pregnancy (gestational diabetes), or you may have already had diabetes for a while (Type 1 or Type 2). You can certainly breastfeed and breastfeeding brings extra benefits to your baby and to you in addition to the goodness and protection it provides to all mothers and babies.

Why should I consider breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding has many benefits for both you and your baby.

For you

breastfeeding reduces the risk of:

  • Breast cancer and ovarian cancer
  • Osteoporosis
  • Heart disease

Breastfeeding also:

  • Reduces stress levels
  • Helps your body to return to its pre-pregnancy weight
  • Can delay or reduce the likelihood of getting type 2 diabetes in later life in women who had gestational diabetes

For your baby

Breastfeeding reduces the risk of:

  • Tummy upsets
  • Infections
  • Allergies
  • Eczema
  • Asthma
  • Obesity and subsequently the development of Type 2 diabetes
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

Breastfeeding is convenient with no preparation time or temperature checking required and it is also free!

Before birth: getting ready for breastfeeding

If you have pre-existing diabetes (Type 1 or Type 2) your diabetes team will talk to you in clinic about how to monitor your glucose levels when you are breastfeeding. If you are taking medication to manage your diabetes, insulin and metformin are compatible with breastfeeding (however discuss with your diabetic team if you take any other diabetic medication).

Expressing colostrum

Colostrum is the type of breast milk produced in late pregnancy and the first few days after birth. It is the best food for your baby and will help to keep your baby’s blood sugar within a normal range. It is also rich in antibodies which help prevent infection and it helps protect your baby’s gut.

You can hand express from 36 weeks of pregnancy and store colostrum at home for your baby to have when he or she is born. You can then bring this expressed milk into the hospital with you and we will safely store it for you until you need it. Expressed colostrum is particularly useful if your baby is slow to feed or needs extra feeds, especially if the baby has low blood sugars. The colostrum can then be given to the baby via an oral syringe.

You can access more information about how to hand express and also how to safely store expressed colostrum by accessing the ‘Off to the best start’ leaflet found on the Unicef website.

Tips for establishing breastfeeding

Skin to skin contact soon after birth.

Skin to skin contact is very important because it reduces cortisol (the “stress” hormone)  after birth in mum and baby. It can also boost milk supply, keep baby warm and help regulate heart rate and oxygen levels. Skin to skin also helps encourage your baby to feed soon after birth and helps you to recognise ‘feeding cues’.

Feed soon after birth.

An effect of your diabetes is that in the hours after birth, your baby’s blood sugar level can fall. Your baby needs to feed soon after birth (within 1 hour from delivery)

Feed regularly.

Continue to feed your baby regularly, every 2- 3hours. This will help get your milk supply get off to a good start. There are many trained professionals within the unit who can help you with your breastfeeding so please ask if you need help.

It will take around 3 days for your milk to come in. In the meantime your baby is getting the vital colostrum.


Remember that your colostrum is designed for your baby in small amounts and is the most effective milk for maintaining your baby’s blood sugar levels.

Monitoring of baby’s blood glucose after birth

Your baby will be observed for signs of hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) when they are born for 24 hours. Their blood sugar will be tested twice after birth, just before they have their second and third feed. The blood is taken by a “heel prick”. It is not a test for diabetes, but is a way of testing if baby’s blood sugar levels are    within normal limits.

If both results are normal the blood sugar testing can stop. If it is low, your baby will need feeding and blood sugar monitoring will continue until you baby’s levels are stable.

How can I get more information?

Please discuss any queries or concerns with your midwife. There are midwives and maternity support workers both within the hospital and also in the community when you go home who will support you with breastfeeding. You can also discuss with your midwife or health visitor about support available locally including breastfeeding groups.

Useful contact numbers

Community Midwives

Antenatal/postnatal ward

For more information

Unicef – Support for parents

NHS – Benefits of breastfeeding

Data Protection

Any personal information is kept confidential. There may be occasions where your information needs to be shared with other care professionals to ensure you receive the best care possible. In order to assist us to improve the services available, your information may be used for clinical audit, re- search, teaching and anonymised for National NHS Reviews. Further information is available in the leaflet Disclosure of Confidential Information IL137, via Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust website or the PALS Service.

This leaflet can be made available in other languages and formats upon request