Breastfeeding less Likely for Mothers Diagnosed with Diabetes

The benefits of breastfeeding have been part of the body of knowledge of the general public throughout the years. Infants who are breastfed are known to have stronger immune system and decreased susceptibility to common infections. For these reasons, lactating mothers are highly encouraged to breastfeed their infants up to 2 years of age.

However, in a recent biomedical science research published in the journal Public Health Nutrition, it has been found that women who had pre-pregnancy and gestational diabetes are less likely to initiate breastfeeding or continue it, as compared to a similar group who has not been diagnosed with diabetes.

Dr. Reena Oza-Frank of the Center for Perinatal Research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH, lead author of the study states that initiating breastfeeding and continuing it is most difficult with mothers who were diagnosed to have pre-pregnancy diabetes. With mothers who are diagnosed with gestational diabetes, the problem lies in the continued breastfeeding of their infants. Through these findings, the team concludes that additional support is needed for mothers with pre-pregnancy diabetes for them to be able to initiate and continue breastfeeding their babies. As for mothers with gestational diabetes, support must be provided for them to be able to continue breastfeeding.

Infants who are born to diabetic mothers have a tendency to have hypoglycemia after birth. They are also prone to develop obesity and acquire diabetes later in life. Dr. Oza-Frank believes that breastfeeding may help reduce such risks.

The study was conducted by utilizing data from the 2009-2011 Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring Program (PRAMS) – a surveillance project of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

A total of 73,000 women were included in the study. Of this, 8.8% had gestational diabetes and 1.7% has been diagnosed to have diabetes prior to pregnancy. 16 extraneous factors including the subject’s age, income and ethnicity were dutifully accounted for by the research team to ensure that any significant differences in breastfeeding habits among the subjects can be associated exclusively to diabetes.

The research team led by Dr. Oza-Frank pointed out the importance of breastfeeding intention as a reliable predictor for the continuance of breastfeeding. It was stressed that prenatal education about the importance of breastfeeding and its health benefits is the key to successful initiation. Oza-Frank adds that lactation consultants are integral participants in the process of providing resource and support for breastfeeding mothers prior to delivery and after birth of the baby.

Further research is on the way for assessing the rates of breastfeeding in a 6 month period. The team also plans to expand their research to include breastfeeding patterns in the 1st year of the infant’s life including the start of bottle-feeding and the introduction of solid foods.

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