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How breastfeeding affects gestational diabetes

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Nearly 40 lakh Indian women develop increased blood sugar levels during pregnancy despite having no history of diabetes before pregnancy, a condition known as gestational diabetes. Women with gestational diabetes are at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life, however, breastfeeding can lower this possibility.

Gestational diabetes is a growing challenge in India, and the number seems to be increasing. Women with diabetes should be encouraged to breastfeed their little bundles of joy, as breastfeeding may help lower blood glucose levels.

Women with diabetes must keep a regular check on their blood sugar levels. (Source: Getty Images/Thinkstock)

Perks of breastfeeding for women

Breastfeeding is the natural way to care for a baby while creating a bond between a mother and her child. Further, breastfeeding reduces the chances of developing many health conditions for women, which include:

*Osteoporosis

*Rheumatoid arthritis

*Heart disease

*Type 2 diabetes

*Post-pregnancy weight loss

*Breast cancer

*Uterine cancer

*Ovarian cancer

Besides the physical health advantages, breastfeeding also plays an important part in managing anxiety post-childbirth. Breastfeeding induces the release of the happy hormone, called oxytocin, which helps lift a new mother’s mood, thus lowering the risk of depression post-childbirth in new mothers.

How does breastfeeding affect diabetes management and blood sugar levels?

Doctors often advise women with diabetes to breastfeed their babies. A woman can offer the best nutrition to her baby by breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is a real workout for a new mother’s body. It benefits new mothers because breastfeeding may help them lose weight, like when on a treadmill.

Besides helping with weight loss, breastfeeding also suppresses the return of periods (menstruation) and is relaxing. The reduced stress may improve control of blood sugar level and a woman’s quality of life after childbirth.

When the baby first begins nursing, some women with diabetes may experience low blood sugar. Thus, it is critical to be prepared and keep a source of glucose nearby while nursing the baby.

Breastfeeding with diabetes can be challenging. Women with diabetes are more likely to develop inflammation in their breasts; a condition called mastitis. Women with diabetes should ensure to feed their babies from both their breasts to avoid developing inflammation of breasts.

Also, women with diabetes must keep a regular check on their blood sugar levels. Increased blood sugar can affect milk quality. Apart from milk quality, it may sometimes affect the ability to produce milk, too.

Effects of breastfeeding on neonates

For the offspring, breastfeeding confers protection against both undernutrition and overnutrition during early childhood and may lower risk of developing obesity, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes later in life.

How does breastfeeding help lower blood glucose?

Breastfeeding reduces blood glucose levels by:

*Utilising glucose from the blood to produce breast milk

*By burning down extra calories, which increases insulin sensitivity.

Women with diabetes can incorporate the following tips to ease their breastfeeding experience:

*Having a snack before or while breastfeeding.

*Monitoring blood sugar levels at least once a day before and after feeding their baby

*Keeping an emergency snack, such as a biscuit or a fruit, nearby while they feed their baby.

*Checking for any inflammation in the breast.

*Avoiding any stress.

*Drinking plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.

(The writer is MBBS, MD (MEDICINE), DM (ENDOCRINOLOGY) Consultant endocrinologist, ILS Hospital, Howrah.)

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