This section covers research on infant feeding, diabetes and hypolgycaemia in relation to infant health. Studies on these topics are also available with reference to maternal health.
Breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact as non-pharmacological prevention of neonatal hypoglycemia in infants born to women with gestational diabetes; a Danish quasi-experimental study
This study investigated the effect on infant blood glucose levels of an intervention consisting of early, frequent breastfeeding and two hours of immediate uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact following birth of term infants born to mothers with diet-treated gestational diabetes (GDM). The researchers found that infants suffering a hypoglycemic event within four hours after birth decreased from 22.7% in the control group to 10.2% in the intervention group. The mean number of breastfeeds in the intervention group (six hours) was 2.41 compared to 1.34 in the control group (seven hours), an increase of 80%.
Dalsgaard, BT, Rodrigo-Domingo, M, Kronborg, H, & Haslund, H (2019). Breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact as non-pharmacological prevention of neonatal hypoglycemia in infants born to women with gestational diabetes; a Danish quasi-experimental study. Sexual & Reproductive Healthcare, 19: 1-8
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