Diabetes: Feeding your baby

Diabetes in Pregnancy Infant Feeding Team

Our Specialist Diabetes in Pregnancy Infant Feeding Team are here to provide you with information and support so that you can make an informed decision on how you would like to feed your baby and help you to overcome any potential barriers to feeding your baby. 

Lucy Lowe, Diabetes in Pregnancy Infant Feeding Specialist

Lucy Lowe, Diabetes in Pregnancy Infant Feeding Specialist

Our service was created because we know that many women with diabetes wish to breastfeed their baby, but may have some extra challenges to do so. We can meet with you during your pregnancy to answer your questions and provide you with information.   

Once you have given birth, all Maternity staff are trained to provide you with practical feeding support, no matter how you choose to feed your baby. For extra feeding support for those with feeding challenges postnatally, the Infant Feeding Team are available to support you on the postnatal ward and up to 28 days postnatally. If you need specialist support postnatally, please ask your midwife to refer you to the Infant Feeding Team.  

 Why is breastfeeding important? 

Breastfeeding is an effective way to protect your and your child’s health, growth and development. It provides many health benefits to your baby and you, including reducing your baby’s risk of childhood leukaemia, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), obesity and respiratory illnesses. For you, advantages of breastfeeding include reducing the risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes (if you have gestational diabetes) and breast and ovarian cancer. 

There are extra benefits of breastfeeding for baby and mother when their mother has had diabetes in pregnancy: 

  • Babies born to mothers with diabetes are at greater risk of developing diabetes and other metabolic disorders (such as heart disease and stroke) in their future. Breastfeeding helps reduce these risks. 
  • Some babies born to mothers with diabetes experience low blood glucose (hypoglycaemia) after birth. Breast milk is the best solution for low blood glucose. 
  • If you have Type 1 diabetes, breastfeeding may lower your insulin requirement. 
  • Breastfeeding for 6 months or less after having had Gestational Diabetes reduces your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in your future by 25% 
  • Breastfeeding for 6 months or more after having had Gestational Diabetes reduces your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in your future by 47%. 

For more information and tips about feeding your baby when you have diabetes contact the Diabetes in Pregnancy Infant Feeding Specialist diabetesfeedingteam@nnuh.nhs.uk or view the Diabetes, Feeding Your Baby and You Patient Information Leaflet

Antenatal hand expressing 

For mothers with diabetes, we recommend that you learn to hand express from 36 weeks’ gestation for several reasons including:  

  • If your baby does not breastfeed straight after birth, or they experience a period of low blood glucose, you can feed them the colostrum you hand expressed during your pregnancy. This can avoid the need to give artificial formula milk. 
  • It helps to get breastfeeding off to a good start. 
  • It helps your milk supply to become established sooner.  
  • Hand expressing antenatally helps you feel prepared to hand express should you need to use the skill once baby is born. 

Antenatal hand expressing is the process of gently expressing milk out of your breasts in the final few weeks of pregnancy. You can start producing breastmilk (called colostrum) from around 16-20 weeks gestation. Colostrum contains the exact amount of nutrients that your baby needs, including precious antibodies and essential healthy bacteria that protect babies from infections, allergies, and disease. 

For more details view the Expressing your breastmilk in the antenatal period Patient Information Leaflet.  

What happens after birth? 

After birth, you will be supported with skin-to-skin and encouraged to give baby their first feed, within 30-60 minutes of being born. If your baby is not interested in feeding during this time, we can give baby your colostrum via syringe or cup instead. 

After birth, it is recommended that your baby receives extra checks and monitoring of their wellbeing and blood glucose levels as they have an increased chance of low blood glucose. These checks usually continue for a minimum of 24 hours after birth. See Protecting baby from low blood glucose PIL for more details. 

Occasionally, some babies may have problems maintaining their blood glucose, despite having regular feeds. These babies may need to be looked after on the Neonatal Unit. You and your baby will be supported by Midwives and the Neonatal Team if this happens. 

For more information view the Protecting your baby from low blood glucose Patient Information Leaflet

Where can I find more information? 

You can hear more about diabetes and breastfeeding from Lucy in an episode of the Makes Milk podcast.  

There is also advice on Diabetes and Breastfeeding from La Leche League GB. 

Contact details

For support or further information, please contact diabetesfeedingteam@nnuh.nhs.uk 

Please note that Lucy works 10 hours per week therefore may not be able to respond to your email immediately. She will respond to your email as soon as possible.   

If your question is about your diabetes care in pregnancy, please contact the Diabetes Specialist Midwives on diabetes.midwives@nnuh.nhs.uk