This section covers research on breastfeeding and diabetes, both with reference to child and maternal health.
Protection again Type 1 diabetes mellitus
This case control study compared the frequency and duration of breastfeeding between siblings where one sibling had been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes mellitus and other siblings had not. The results showed that while there was no difference in breastfeeding rates among the two groups, the children with diabetes had a shorter duration of breastfeeding (3.3 vs. 4.6 months, p<0.001) and the diabetic group was exposed earlier to cow’s milk. After controlling for other associated variables it was shown that a longer duration of breastfeeding was associated with a protective effect against diabetes. The authors concluded that a shorter breastfeeding interval may contribute to type 1 diabetes mellitus.
Importance of early first feed for babies of diabetic mums
It has been recognised that babies of diabetic mothers are at greater risk of hypoglycaemia and as such, an early feed is recommended. This study was carried out to ascertain both the impact of an early feed and to establish what type of feeding provided the best option to reduce the risk of hypoglycaemia. The researchers found that infants who were breastfed in the delivery room had a significantly lower rate of borderline hypoglycaemia than those who were not breastfed in the early postpartum period and the researchers concluded that an early breastfeed may facilitate stable blood glucose levels in the infants of mothers with gestational diabetes.
Benefits of Baby Friendly practices to diabetic mothers
A Confidential Enquiry into Maternal and Child Health (CEMACH) report highlighted concerns about the care of newborn babies of diabetic mothers, including evidence of suboptimal management with regard to neonatal hypoglycaemia and early feeding, lower breastfeeding rates and a higher than expected number of admissions to neonatal units. The recommendation made included practices which are part of the Baby Friendly standards including policies, antenatal information, skin contact and staff training.
The Confidential Enquiry into Maternal and Child Health (CEMACH). Diabetes in pregnancy: caring for the baby after birth. Findings of a National enquiry: England, Wales and Northern Ireland. CEMACH London; 2007