Breastfeeding and Diabetes (AKA: Oh dear, another TMI post.)
Opinions run rampant on everything health-related.
In the diabetes community, there are varying opinions on insulin pumps vs. multiple daily injections. Humalog vs. Apidra. Lantus vs. Levemir. Medtronic vs. Animas. Coke vs. Pepsi. (That last one isn't a joke - Diet Coke or Diet Pepsi? I know I go against the grain with my preference, but I'm a Diet Pepsi gal, myself.) And there isn't a "right" or "wrong" when it comes to these management decisions. Just different ways of managing diabetes within a lifestyle. We share our opinions and personal health choices with one another, and there isn't a lot of judging going on - or at least not within the safety of our diabetes blogosphere.
Now that I'm a mom, I'm encountering the same sort of opinions on how I'm raising my child. Opinions, advice, you name it. And I'm all for advice, mostly because I am not an expert on anything and am always open to other people's input. But some stuff I'm a little less snuggly about. Hell, there was commentary run on my "decision" to have a c-section (and again, I'll reiterate: it wasn't a choice. It was a medical recommendation based on the location of my diabetic retinopathy. See also: gardening). And lately, I'm getting a lot of feedback on breastfeeding.
For me, I decided to give breastfeeding a go for my daughter. There are pros and cons to this decision, though. (What, you thought this was going to be straight up rainbows and unicorns?) -->
- Breastfeeding my daughter helps provide her with antibodies that protect her from the chaos of germies and viruses around her.
- Feeding her is truly a bonding experience, where it's just she and I and we're snuggled close.
- My medical team at Joslin recommended that if I could breastfeed and if it worked for my lifestyle, it would be to the benefit of my daughter.
- Honestly? Breastfeeding is cheap. We don't have to buy formula, and our biggest expense has been the breast pump that I staggered into Babies R Us for the day I was discharged from Beth Israel.
- It's convenient in that if the baby needs to eat, there is very little preparation required.
- Magical moment: BSparl's poop? Literally? Doesn't stink. Something about breastfeeding keeps the poops from smelling weird.
- I'm currently able to produce enough milk to feed the baby and stash sterile bags of milk in the fridge for those moments when Chris needs/wants to feed the baby, or for when we're on the road. I can't lie - being able to create a stash of food for the baby fuels my OCD.
- Breastfeeding is a wicked calorie burner. I'm not back to my pre-pregnancy weight by any stretch, but feeding the baby and making milk are caloric furnace activities. It's tough because I don't have a previous pregnancy to compare things to, but I feel that my uterus has shrunk faster and weight has come off a bit easier due to breastfeeding.
- Diabetes connection - Apparently, there's research that shows breast feeding a child can help ward off a type 1 diabetes diagnosis. But I'm not sure how I feel about that, seeing as how I was the only breastfed child in my family, yet I'm the only diabetic. Go figure.
- Another diabetes connection - The actual feeding process doesn't seem to make me low, but when my supply is refilling? That makes my numbers plummet. This is a good thing when I want to eat a sandwich after feeding BSparl because I can just skip the bolus.
- Thankfully, BSparl is happy to feed from the bottle and the breast, which I've heard is not often the case, but I'm grateful she'll do it that way. I've had many moments when my blood sugar has been too low to breast feed the baby, and it's good that she'll happily take a bottle from Chris. I've also fed her a bottle, myself, without issue. BSparl doesn't have any nipple confusion (thank God), and she goes from breast to bottle without issue.
- I like knowing that I'm providing BSparl with the most natural food source possible. Also, feeding her makes me pay more rapt attention to my blood sugars, because even though my medical team told me that I can feed BSparl at any blood sugar, I prefer to be as stable as possible so BSparl gets normally-sweetened milk.
- When the milk comes in at first, it feels like your boobs are filled with rocks. Rocks that want to GET OUT RIGHT THE HELL NOW. It's not comfy. My milk didn't come in until the fourth day, which is a little later than your average non-diabetic mommy, but right on schedule for a mom with type 1.
- Using the breast pump is awkward and sometimes uncomfortable, and not something I could ever do in public without feeling like a complete weirdo.
- On that same theme, I'm not comfortable enough yet to feed BSparl in public, so I am currently restricted to feeding her in our home or in the home of a friend of family member where I can duck into a private bedroom for a spell.
- If I'm unable to feed BSparl and unable to pump, the discomfort can be intense.
- Sometimes, at very inopportune moments (like while I'm asleep), there's "leaking." Preventing this can require the use of breast pads, which don't look cool.
- The whole "her poop doesn't stink" thing also comes with the reality that her bowel movements are sometimes ELECTRIC YELLOW (but they do not glow in the dark, unfortunately - I checked).
- The nickname "Bessie" used to be a "con" because I was trying to get comfortable with breast feeding and the whole "Oh hey, these things are supposed to be used to feed a baby?" But now I don't mind. And I just say "Moo."
- I worked with the team at Beth Israel to get BSparl to latch on properly, but sometimes that initial latching at the beginning of a feeding is pretty painful.
- The dietary restrictions feel like an extension of pregnancy, in some ways. As in, no drinking (unless I know it's going to be hours until I feed the baby). And nothing exceptionally spicy or garlicky, because that could make the kiddo colicky. And that's not on my To Do list.
- That Pro about being able to skip boluses? If I forget to eat after feeding her or pumping, the lows can be extremely stubborn. Stubborn as in "Wow, I just ate that whole box of Tollhouse crackers." Or "Wow, I go low so quickly that I need to keep Fruit Roll-Ups stashed in the cushions of the couch."
I have no idea how long I'll decide to breast feed my child, but I know that it's been four weeks already and I'm not planning on stopping anytime terribly soon. I can't say that I'm planning to keep it up for a year, or even six months, but I'm taking it week by week and letting life dictate my decision. For now, with my work-from-home schedule and the fact that BSparl is still so little, I'm sticking with breastfeeding because it works for us.
These are my opinions based on my personal experiences, not a pile of facts. I know I keep throwing out these disclaimers, but I'm very sensitive in regards to people who think they know it all or think there's only one way to do something. This is the way I'm moving forward, but it's not the rule for every new mom. Or every diabetic. Or every cat owner.
(Okay, it could be good advice for cat owners. Because my crew of felines have had some opinions of their own re: BSparl. More on that in a later post, because the pictures are just too damn funny.)