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Breastfeeding With Diabetes

By Lauren Priegues
Coral Gables FL USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 17 No. 3, May-June 2000, p. 84

We provide articles from our publications from previous years for reference for our Leaders and members. Readers are cautioned to remember that research and medical information change over time

My first daughter, Katharine, was born four-and-a-half years ago. She literally kicked her way out of my womb, and my husband says when he saw her face for the first time, as she screamed at the top of her lungs, he felt a sense of fear: she was a force to be reckoned with. Katharine was demanding in every way, not the least of which was nursing. I was determined to nurse her exclusively for as long as possible. I have been an insulin-dependent diabetic for 15 years, and I knew that nursing her would reduce the risk of her getting diabetes but it was a challenge from the start.

Katharine wanted to be at my breast all the time. She rarely napped for more than half an hour. Like many needy babies I've learned about since then, she wanted to be held, comforted, and nursed most of the time. It seemed as if I never had enough milk for her. I remember one day when she was three weeks old, I had had her on my breast for five hours without more than a couple of 15 minute breaks all afternoon. At 5:30 PM, my husband, Lazaro, walked through the door and I burst into tears. I was exhausted, mentally, emotionally, and physically. We decided to give her a bottle of formula. After four ounces, she was finally contented and peaceful and she slept for the first time all day. I felt so inadequate as a mother. That day was truly a low point but, luckily, things became easier after that. I persevered, determined to nurse Katharine exclusively. Slowly but surely, my milk supply began to increase to the point where, at three months, she was satisfied and happy.

Katharine weaned at eight months, earlier than I wanted but I was happy that it was her decision. Today, Katharine is an incredibly bright, healthy four-year-old who speaks fluent Spanish and English and is a joy to behold. She is (and always will be, I'm sure) demanding, energetic, and often difficult.

My baby, Elizabeth, is just the opposite. She was born just over a year ago and her laid-back disposition was evident at birth, just as Katharine's fiery personality was. Elizabeth has always been easy but when she was four days old I feared she was too easy. She was simply sleeping too much and not as alert as she should be. I knew something was wrong but I didn't know what. My LLL Leader, Faith, was the one who noticed Elizabeth's jaundiced appearance. Faith told me not to worry but to be sure and wake her frequently for feedings. I was worried and called my pediatrician, who was my husband's cousin and godmother. When I described the jaundice, she said immediately, "Stop the breast. She has breast milk-induced jaundice. Give her formula. If you insist on breastfeeding, give her lots of bottles of water." I knew from reading baby-care books that that type of jaundice was extremely rare and didn't appear until two weeks and my baby was only five days old. My mothering instinct told me that what my baby needed was more of my milk, not less. I had read that giving her bottles of water would make her jaundice worse by starving her of the calories she needed. I decided to take my baby out into the sunlight and breastfeed her as much as possible. To my husband's family's horror, I decided to find a new pediatrician, one who would support my commitment to breastfeed my baby exclusively.

Elizabeth improved and within a few days was healthy and gaining weight like crazy. She did not have a drop of formula from the day she was born until she was ten months old. Even though I went back to work part-time when she was six months old, I had built up a supply of frozen milk from the early weeks by pumping every morning. Elizabeth began to wean last month (at thirteen months) and is incredibly healthy. I am so grateful that I had Faith's support and counsel and that I had the determination to do what I knew was best for my baby - to give her my milk.

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