Breastfeeding provides the exact nutrients that your baby needs the first few days of life as well as during the months that you continue breastfeeding. All health experts now agree that breast milk is the best milk to give your baby.
When you breastfeed, you can expect a whole list of good things to occur, such as:
• Your menstrual cycles will be delayed.
• Breastfeeding reduces the chance you’ll have uterine, ovarian or breast cancer later in life.
• Your metabolic rate will rise.
• The hormones prolactin and oxytocin are increased during breastfeeding, and they are both stress-relieving and promote a sense of calmness that you’ll feel.
• You can more easily lose weight, which will lower your insulin needs for the day (for diabetics).
• You’ll recover faster from the birthing process.
• You’ll bond with your baby, creating that inseparable relationship that lasts a lifetime.
• You’ll feel as if you are doing the best you can do for your baby – and you are, as one of the advantages of breastfeeding is that the baby has a lower chance of developing diabetes in adulthood.
Low Blood Sugar While Breastfeeding
As a diabetic, it’s important to always monitor your blood sugar levels and make corrections that are needed as they arise. Although breastfeeding is natural, there may be times where it is associated with low blood sugar.
Low blood sugar while breastfeeding can happen in different people:
- Women who are diabetic
- Women who have had gestational diabetes during their pregnancy
- Women who are not diabetic
- In the infant
How Low Blood Sugar is Connected With Birthing and Breastfeeding
There are some basic things to know about low blood sugar during breastfeeding:
- Why Your Insulin Needs Change after Birthingafter giving birth and for the next few days, your insulin requirements are very low. This is because the placenta hormones are no longer secreting insulin. Thus, to a diabetic woman, it may be easy to develop low blood sugar from higher self-injections of insulin.
- these two days after giving birth, careful attention to insulin doses along with monitoring blood sugar levels – and recording them diligently – will help you better gauge the insulin your body needs.
- Diet is Always an Answer
- blood sugar always has a remedy: diet. For example, you can drink a small amount of pineapple juice and raise blood sugar levels quickly. Eating fruit – especially sweet fruits such as pineapple, dates, grapes, raisins or other dried fruits will raise blood sugar levels relatively quickly, but it’s a little slower than drinking a juice made from fruits.
- more long-term plan diet strategies, such as carbohydrate counting, you can include 30-40 grams carbohydrates in a meal, along with 15-20 grams fat and 15-25 grams protein to sustain the blood sugar at a high enough level to last three to four hours.
- the fat and/or the protein, the amount of time the blood sugar stays in the normal range – well out of sight for low blood sugar – will be a lot lower. This is why you can eat a meal of Chinese restaurant food, high in carbohydrates but low in protein and low in fat, and end up hungry within an hour and a half.
- Low Blood Sugar Triggers Stress in the Body
- If you have an episode of hypoglycemia, your body’s alarm response will be triggered, and your body will shift into sympathetic “fight-or-flight” nervous system. This will affect your milk production and let-down.
- It is a big reason why it’s important to continue monitoring your blood sugar levels after giving birth. Don’t stop just because there’s been a disruption in your normal daily routine with the birthing.
- Relationship Between Your Blood Sugar and Your Breast Milk
- milk has a high concentration of lactose in it, which is a sugar. When your blood sugar levels are high, your breast milk will also be high in sugar. This could cause too much weight gain in the baby.
- The other hand, when your blood sugar levels are low, your breast milk will also be low in sugar. This means your baby could have low blood sugar, too, as a result of feeding on the low sugar milk.
- Feeding Your Baby Can Reduce Your Blood Sugar 25%
- creates increased insulin sensitivity after delivery. In one study of breastfeeding moms at one month after birthing, their insulin doses were 18% lower than before pregnancy. Breastfeeding also reduces your blood sugar levels, sometimes up to 25%. Thus, timing of your insulin dose may have to be altered. For example, if your next nursing session will be after dinner, reducing your mealtime insulin, a little may be something you want to experiment with.
- your next nursing session is before a meal, then utilizing the food strategies to keep the blood sugar levels within the proper range will be the best bet. (This means eating a snack before or while you nurse.)
In one Australian study, low blood sugar levels occurred within 3 hours of nursing, but only in 14% of the episodes tested. The low blood sugar was associated with the time from the last oral feeding and the last rapid-acting insulin dosage.
The researchers found that if nursing was avoided for one hour after eating, low blood sugar in the mom could be avoided. Nursing within 30 minutes of eating though, could bring down the blood sugar levels into the low blood sugar level zone.
- Sleep Alters Your Blood Sugar Levels
- blood sugar can be altered from its normal pattern if you aren’t getting enough sleep. Thus, it may seem like a no-win situation in the first few weeks after giving birth, as your sleep cycle is different than your baby’s. Your endocrinologist may be able to help you make adjustments to your insulin levels to counter the changes from disrupted sleep patterns.
On another note, your family may be able to watch your baby early in the morning so you can sleep in and get your full REM cycles. Don’t be afraid to ask them, as they are just as excited about your new family member.
Hypoglycemia in Your Newborn
Hypoglycemia can also occur in your newborn, and this is an important part of this whole picture of low blood sugar while breastfeeding. Birthing uses up a lot of energy for the infant and can leave the baby with low blood sugar. The baby gets its blood sugar from the umbilical cord. The temporary low blood sugar level often is not problematic in the infant’s body because fuel will still be produced as fat stores are broken down.
The problem now is that hospitals have started to adopt the idea that it’s a rampant problem that infants have low blood sugar, and it needs to be remedied immediately. They are causing anxiety in parents – and questionable ‘treatment.’ Their answer is to give formula, IVs of dextrose, or placing a dextrose gel in the baby’s mouth.
But what’s in the formulas? Often times, these formulas are chemical cocktails of GMO foods such as corn, sugar, soy, and others. GMOs are genetically modified organisms, not foods. Synthetic vitamins and minerals that aren’t bioavailable are added to these formulas as well, yet the body wants ‘real’ nutrients.
These formulas lack all the additional phytochemicals that are found in foods, phytochemicals that fill in metabolic gaps and sometimes have more impact on health than “real” vitamins and minerals. Simply put, these “real” nutrients are the ones that the infant needs – without the synthetic, GMO ones that are linked to raising blood sugar levels to the point where they are connected to chronic diseases.
Dextrose is derived from GMO corn. It’s synthetic, and it’s a sugar with no other nutritional value. It doesn’t even simulate food since food is always a combination of phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals, whereas dextrose is simply synthetic sugar.
There’s no nourishment value in it other than to raise the blood sugar level.
British Researchers Question Substances Given to Raise Blood Sugar
A British Columbia study reported that the glucose concentrations of the dextrose gels varied significantly from the expected 40% glucose solution, and they contained artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. Why are we giving newly born infants these substances was their question.
In one study, the use of IV dextrose infusions – another way to affect the baby’s blood sugar levels – actually interfered with breastfeeding, and only 17% of new moms ended up breastfeeding their babies. Another study of the dextrose gel found that breastfeeding reduced the requirement for the use of dextrose gel. In other words, breastfeeding was superior in its ability to ameliorate low blood sugar in infants.
Breastmilk is the best thing that infants can take when their blood sugar levels are low. At Ohio State University, 134 infants of moms with pregestational diabetes mellitus were breastfed right after birth. Low blood sugar levels were found in only 30% of the infants, and it was corrected with oral feedings in 78% of the cases.
Of the 148 infants of moms with pregestational diabetes fed formula feedings right after birth, the incidence rate of low blood sugar was 40% and corrected with oral feedings in 69% of the cases. The researchers stated that early formula feeding is an obstacle, albeit not absolute, to breastfeeding initiation; thus, it should not deter continued efforts to start or resume breastfeeding.
What’s the Solution for Low Blood Sugar in Infants?
There are two easy natural answers to the low blood sugar found in infants. First of all, breastfeed early after delivery and whenever the infant asks for milk.
Research shows that the second answer is one you may never have expected: simply holding your baby close to you, skin to skin.
It’s actually normal to hold your baby close to your body, skin to skin. And researchers have spent their time and money compared blood sugar levels of babies in incubators with no skin-to-skin contact to babies that experienced skin to skin contact for at least the first hours after birth.
The babies that had the skin-to-skin contact were able to maintain better blood sugar levels as well as other vital functions such as heart rate, respiratory rate, and blood pressure. In one study, infants suffering from low blood sugar within four hours after birth decreased from 23% to 10%, just by utilizing the concept of skin-to-skin contact.
Compared to bottlefed babies, breastfed babies have higher levels of the ketone bodies that are used for energy if the infant gets hungry. These prevent low blood sugar.
Do your best to keep breastfeeding your baby. It helps you and your infant in far too many ways!
Dalsgaard, B.T., et al. 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. Sex Reprod Health 2019 Mar;19:1-8.
Christenson, K., et al. Skin to skin contact immediately after birth helps maintain the newborn baby’s blood sugar and other functions. Temperature, metabolic adaptation and crying in healthy full-term newborns cared for skin-to-skin or in a cot. Acta Paediatr 1992:81:488-93.
Lucas, A., et al. Metabolic and endocrine responses to a milk feed in six-day-old full-term infants: differences between breast and cow’s milk formula feeding. Acta Pediatr Scand 70:195-200,1981.
Feldman, A.Z. and Brown, F.M. Management of Type 1 diabetes in pregnancy. Curr Diab Rep 2016 Aug;16(8):76.
Harris, D.L., et al. What happens to blood glucose concentrations after oral treatment for neonatal hypoglycemia? J Pediatr 2017 Nov; 190:136-141.
Achong, N., et al. Glycaemic behavior during breastfeeding in women with Type 1 diabetes. Diabet Med 2017 Jul;33(7):947-55.
Ringholm, L., et al. Breastfeeding at night is rarely followed by hypoglycemia in women with type 1 diabetes using carbohydrate counting and flexible insulin therapy. Diabetologia 2019 Mar;62(3):387-398.
Solimano, A., et al. Dextrose gels for neonatal transitional hypoglycemia: What are we giving our babies? Paediatr Child Health 2019 May;24(2):115-118.
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