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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?)  -->

PROS:

  • 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.

CONS:

  • 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.)

Comments

nipple nazi's is what I call these people and they exist on both sides of the debate. Again, I have major pent up frustration and would be happy to take these fool's out for you. ;)

it's really best to do what feels right for you. Parenting really is a lot of "what works for MY CHILD"..no one else. So try not to listen to anyone who gets extreme on either side. :) This goes for how you put them to sleep, where you put them to sleep, what you put ON them (diaper-wise) what you put into them (baby food) and later where you send them to school and what extracurricular activities you sign them up for. Go with what works for you and don't feel like you owe ANYONE an explanation.

The more TMI, the better! It's useful stuff -- great to know for those of us who'll have to make these kinds of decisions in the (hopefully near) future.

Thanks, as always, for sharing!

My older brother wasn't breastfed and I was, and I'm the diabetic. Go freakin' figure.

Again, even if they are TMI, I'm so so SO grateful for your posts on all things diabetes and pregnancy/baby. There are certainly plenty of us soon-to-be pregnant T1s that want to know every gory detail. The guys can just head over to SportsCenter or somewhere if need be. ;-)

Again, thanks for posting all these. And breastfeeding is a personal choice, along with a lot of things parental. I'm finding (even w/o being a parent) that so many people have their own, strong opinions on ev.ery.thing. Just gotta say, "Mmmm hmmm." and move on (with your rocky breasts). ;-)

Hey, sounds like the pros far outweigh the cons for you. Besides, breastfeeding is your descision. If your body allows it, go for it. That's what they were made for, not to make men googly-eyed.
And you go girl! Tell those people with their own opinions to buzz off. You're doing what's best for you and your baby, and seem to be getting along just fine and dandy!

Great thoughts on this! I had been wondering how the cats were doing now that this little munchkin has come home and started using all the new cat beds they had found around the house. :)

Way to go, breastfeeding or not is a choice for you and your family to make. Personally I think it's great that you can do it, I am not T1 but I did breastfeed all of my kids, and ironically the one that I had the most trouble breastfeeding is the one who ended up with T1, I only went 4 months with her, vs. 6 and 10 months with the other kids. Good luck to you and BSparl, and I say do the breastfeeding as long as it works for you. And don't worry feeding in public will get easier, maybe not untill the next baby comes along. Also, alot of stores and malls have nursing lounges these days, so be on the lookout for those. Good luck and thanks for the info, my daughter is only 5, but I wonder what it will be like for her when she grows up and wants to be a mommy.

I love your TMI posts. As a hoping mommy-to-be, it is always good to hear REAL LIFE, not a bunch of dr. crap.
THANKS KERRI!

You forgot a pro. Breast feeding can reduce your risk of breast cancer. But I breast fed three babies and got breast cancer anyway, go figure. If this is what feels right for you and bsparl go for it. The nipple nazi's can raise their children any way they want.

I agree with Jacquie. I'm thankful for all your TMI posts. I've got 7 more weeks until my own baby girl is supposed to join the real world and I've devoured all of your pregnancy/baby related posts because I want insight from someone who has been there. Thank you for putting your life out on the web to be picked apart and praised. I can't imagine anything more courageous.

Sounds to me like you have it sussed. Take it a week at a time and od what feels right for you and BSparl. When she can hold her head up it gets easier to breastfeed when you are out and about as she will hide anything you don't want flashed around. We have a facebook group here in the Uk calles "If breastfeeding embarrasses you put a scarf over YOUR head" in reaction to the idea that babies should be hidden away if feeding. We also have a list of "sympathetic" cafes and restaurants in our town that have publicly stated that breastfeeding is cool in their establishment. Do you have anything like that for when the time comes and you want to venture out a bit more?
It makes me smile to read your words. You are just loving it! Your girl and you body in great tune with each other. SO happy for you.

I am in full agreement with the other ladies who've posted...I appreciate that TMI posts. As a fellow soon-to-be pregnant T1 words cannot even express how appreicative I am of the "gory" details. I think it's always great to have more information when making any decisions.
I am curious to hear/see what those furry housemates of yours think of Bsparl by the way.

From the Department of TMI:

1. I had the "breasts that feel like rocks", leaking all of the place, etc. with my first baby, but none of that with my second.

2. I'm not the shy type, so I'd breastfeed anyplace, anytime, but one good place to consider is department store dressing rooms. I was always very upfront with the salesperson about what I was using the room for, so they wouldn't ask if I needed another size. This works better in the women's department at Macy's, not The Gap. I refused to breastfeed in the bathroom.

3. I breastfed two children for 1 and 3+ years, respectively, (3+ years has T1) and never had a day of nipple soreness or a child that bit me.

4. I could eat garlic, onions, drink coffee, whatever, and it never bothered either child.

5. Regarding all of the above: YMMV. What worked for me won't necessarily be your experience. Be proud of the fact that you are giving BSparl the best milk out there, with all its lovely health benefits for her and you. I work on an OB floor loaded with lactation consultants, some of whom are "nipple Nazis" and I still think that women should do what is best for them and what fits in with their lifestyle. No doubt that breastmilk is best, but formula ain't exactly arsenic, either! We (women, nurses) have got to cut women some slack.

All three of my kids were breastfed and only the youngest one is diabetic. I remember that one of our lactation consultants (the people who help with latching on and feeding) was actually named Flossie. My son and my preference for diet soda is Diet Dr. Pepper

Breast feeding is hard work(feeding bras, breast pads, the breast pump, nipple cream......oh joy!) and those early weeks were hell! I loved the fact that I had food on the go for the little ones. A was breast fed til he was 10 months, diagnosed T1 aged 4, mmmmmm.

I'm glad everything is working out for you! Congratulations on your beautiful daughter!

Thank you SO much for posting this!

Baby NoName and I are going to try to give breastfeeding a go, too, and I am super-nervous about it.

I feel so unprepared and your post is a huge help in that area.

Thanks again!
Nici

Good for you for doing what you think is best-- whatever that ends up being!

Just wanted to give my favorite piece of breastfeeding advice-- those "electric yellow" poops that stain everything- well, just hang them in the sun to dry after you wash and the stains disappear. If it doesn't fade the first time, get it wet and hang it out again. I actually threw outfits away that I thought were ruined before I learned this little trick! It's like magic!!

Great post! Great job nursing.

thank you so much for being open throughout your pregnancy and newmomness. This is awesome for those of us still in the planning stages. I am sorry that so many people feel the need to judge you or reprimand you. I think you have done a fabulous job and hope I get the chance to do as well.

Hey Kerri, thanks for all the TMI, it is so helpful! Keep these great posts coming! :) You are doing awesome as a mommy!

Oh you know that you will get it from both sides as soon as you step into the whole breast/bottle debate! It goes on and on and on and seems senseless to me on so many levels.

Welcome to your own decision Kerri! I am all for everyone deciding what they do and don't do, are comfortable with and aren't. I am glad that you are breastfeeding and it is working for you. I think it's so beneficial to the baby (again, my opinion folks)

I breastfed all 3 of my kiddos. The longest I went is 18 months with #3 and I enjoyed every minute of it. My kids never had bottles at all. Again, pros and cons to everything. And there will come a time that you are comfortable breastfeeding anywhere. By #3, you don't give a flying crap who sees what.

interesting! I was breastfed until after I was 2 as were both of my sisters, and I'm the only one with diabetes! I was at this brestfeeding class with my sister who is 35w pregnant and the lady running the class said that there were no food restrictions with breastfeeding. I thought that there was! I have heard certain foods effect some babys tummys! I'm not a parent or breastfeeding, but I really felt like that lady was wrong!! Hopefully breastfeeding continues to go well for you!

Sounds like you're doing great with new motherhood even with the inconveniences and uncomfortable parts (literally). Thanks for sharing -- and it's never TMI!! I'm type 1 due in September and breastfeeding is one of the issues I've been wondering about. Did you read any books or take any classes on breastfeeding beforehand that you found helpful? I really appreciate your honest diabetic perspective! Take care and keep up the great work :)

Okay, this is going to sound weird (but hey, I always sound weird) . . . but I kinda want to see those electric yellow poops. I'm just so curious! But you are very wise to just describe them on the blog and not post a dirty diaper picture.

K.C. is cuddling on my lap right now, and she says she's very upset at the lack of pictures of her girl Siah in your posts these days. :)

Another surprise advantage to breastfeeding: If BSparl poops on her clothes, rinse them and lay them in the sun for an hour. The sun is a Magic Eraser for breast milk poop stains.

I did not know milk came in more slowly for a T1. That might explain some of the difficulties I had! Kerri - no justification or reasoning needed! You do what you need to do. As with diabetes, your mileage may vary with parenthood also! :-) And btw - I have some tulip nursing shirts (not the latest trendy style, but perfunctory and basic in all colors) that I used to wear in public when I nursed. The fabric on top was a good concealer. If you'd like, I can give them to you.

Most of those cons should resolve completely (the engorgement and painful latch, for example) or at least get much, much better (nursing in public WILL get easier - especially when she gains head and neck control) with time.

I found that EVERYTHING got a lot easier, nursing wise, at about 6-8 weeks. A little earlier with the second baby, because I had more experience. :)

I am an RD, CDE, and a Type 1 diabetic myself. My professional thoughts: I think you rock!!! As much and for how long you want to breastfeed is completely your decision...period!!! The antibodies you give her will be awesome!

2 things that might make bfing out of the house little easier are:
1. Nursing Cover. SOooo much easier than a blanket. It won't fall off & you can still see the baby. I personally like the Bebe au Lait Brand.
2. Nursing Tank. I don't like pulling up my shirt (even with the cover) and showing my just had a baby tummy! So I would always wear a Glamourmom tank.
HTH!

Thanks so much for this post, Kerri. I've got weaning on my mind these days, but my baby has no plans to stop nursing. Now everyone who sees me nursing him gives me one of looks and asks...how old is he now? :)
And oh...the breast feeding lows. It's not easy.

Great post, as always, Kerri.

I'm breastfeeding BabyBL and I will add some input here, as we are 15 weeks in now. She still can't latch properly without a silicone shield, but it's worth it to be able to breastfeed her (and trust me, she's getting PLENTY. She's the size of a six month old already...). I was a breastfed baby (and a type 1, too), but I always knew I would make it happen for my children.

Anyway, FYI, my spicy, garlicky, coffee-loving ways are not causing her one bit of discomfort as far as I can tell. I wouldn't buy that diet can cause colic (I buy into the Happiest Baby on the Block book's theory that it's an issue of the baby having trouble "changing state," but that's a whole other discussion).

It's hard as a new mom to stand up for what you've chosen for your child, whatever your choices. We get crap for co-sleeping, but it's the right choice for MY child. Like others have said, there will ALWAYS be a peanut gallery passing their peanutty judgments.

I like Diet Coke out of cans/bottles but prefer Diet Pepsi from the fountain. Is that weird? And with that statement, I realize I'm the only dude that has commented on this post. After going to the OB appointments for 5 months, I guess the TMI talk doesn't really get to me any more. :)

WARNING...PERSONAL OPINION ALERT!!! :) After breastfeeding four babies, I can honestly say it is so much more convenient then bottle feeding. My sister-in-law bottle fed, parents lived 8 hours away, and she would have to take a thermos of hot water with them anytime they traveled to make bottles. Me? Have boobs...will travel. :) No wasting formula. No formula stains on baby clothes. No stinky poop. Great for weight loss. You hit on a lot of good ones. Breastfeeding is also such a comfort to babies, and it's something that only you can offer your child.

Your body will level out with the milk production and you won't have to splash water on your shirt so it looks like you spilled your beverage instead of springing a leak. :) Hang in there. It does get easier and you'll be able to discretely nurse in public like a pro. And if anyone says anything, just tell them, "thank you for your UNSOLICITED opinion!!!" :)

Here's a funny site I found on Facebook...

http://www.ifbreastfeedingoffendsyou.org/

My wife Breastfed both of our kids for 1 year. I think it is a personal decision and not right or wrong. It's either for your life or not. No biggie. There are a lot of things like that in parenting so be ready to hear both sides of every little thing.

Jasmine was really upset when she stopped breastfeeding our daughter. She knew it was the last time and she said that the closeness during feeding is something she knew she would miss. I never thought about that but there is something very magical about it in a way.

I nursed 3 babies for 2 - 2.5 years each.

I tandem nursed my middle and last -- yeah, it was quite a site :)

My oldest has T1 and Celiac.

I don't regret my decision and got alot of flack for extended nursing. You just have to let it roll off and keep doing what your instincts tell you is right.

On a side note, I remember thinking with my first that I wish someone had told me that breastfeeding was a full time job -- I felt like it's all I did!!!!

I also found that I finally felt like we had it figured out around 8 weeks. For some reason, I felt like we turned a corner at that point.

Keep up the good work :)

just wanted to add in fairness of disclosure: I bottle fed both my kids. Their poop did not stain. They are both pretty intelligent. They are rarely sick. They did leave the house quite often - for extended stays in many cases with the grandmas (oh happiness) And mom got to have as much alcohol as she liked. :) I just want to speak up for the moms that can't or don't breast feed. We still do what's best for our babies too. :)

Kerri- You rock! I tried to breast feed Niya but I couldn't--the milk didn't come in or something like that. I tried and Niya latching on to my Chi-Chi's...OUCH!

My son (the diabetic) was breastfed for 5 months, he lost interest after that. My daughter breastfed for about a year. Neither of them were exclusively breastfed, or even breast-milk fed. My advice - let BSparl and your body tell you when to stop, and anyone who contradicts you can go scratch.

Rock on! Breastfeeding was such excellent parenting aid for me. I remember having shyness about feeding in public at the beginning. After awhile I started seeing it as advocacy and felt really proud to do it.

LilyPadz nursing pads are great - they're silicone, so they're reusable (appeals to my plastic-insertion-sets-and-other-disposable-diabetes-supplies green side), stops the leaking (no, really, they do) & - best of all - are invisible. Wouldn't have made it thru nursing 3 kiddos without them. Okay, I would have, but this made it much less lumpy!

I'm glad you are doing what feels best to you and Bsparl. That is the only way. I breastfed for 18 months. I had planned to stop at 1 year, but my daughter had a different opinion, so I went with the flow, so to speak. I did want to mention, I seem to recall hearing that breast fed babies are more likely to get T1 because they get less vitamin d? Anyway, heard that too late for my daughter though. And by the way, Coke Zero all the way!

Ahh, how great to read that things are going well for you Kerri! Another RD, CDE here praising your efforts. I too breastfed my kids for 16 months each. They also received breast milk via bottle because I worked, but it was a great experience for us. And I am a firm believer in Lansinoh ointment applied liberally and often and Woolen Delights Nursing Pads. They are amazing. http://www.danishwool.com/ I think it's so awesome that you are making the effort and staying positive. You are truly giving your baby nature's most perfectly designed food. Like others have said, you gotta let the unsolicited baby/parenting advice roll off because it doesn't stop anytime soon!

AMEN SISTER! you do what you feel is right for you and your baby! thanks for all the TMI, it's very useful info! ;-)
congrats, again! she's beautiful!

I was also so lucky to have a baby boy who was happy to be both breastfed and took the bottle until 5 months old. At that age, he started to choose the bottle over the breast. I used the breast pump for two weeks after that but since he had always gotten formula together with the breastmilk, I stopped that, and gave him only the formula for the next two weeks. To be honest, I was a little bit relieved to stop breastfeeding even though I was at the same time happy that I could breastfeed him, because it was so good to get rid of those lows that followed the breastfeeding in my case.
My now 6 months old boy has just started to get some food, and it is so much fun! :-)
Regarding the issues of breastfeeding and having a c-section (which I had), I think that those who are all judgemental about what is right and wrong in both of these issues, are horrible people. I heard a lot about how c-section was a bad choice, and that breastfeeding was necessary until 6 months old, and formula should never be used and bla, bla, bla. I decided at the very beginning of my pregnancy not to listen to any of those comments, and just do what I could.
As if we with T1 donĀ“t have enough worries and guilt over everything when pregnant. All the hard work we have to do to get those little ones healthy and safe into the world. Do people really think that after all that, we would not choose to do what is best for the baby in every way (whatever way that might be in each case)?

Well, almost 4 years of breastfeeding didn't keep my son from developing type 1 diabetes when there is no history of type one in our family. It also didn't prevent his allergies or asthma. But, there are many real advantages to breastfeeding. No baby constipation, almost no spitting up. If you are planning to keep on traveling, it is a heck of a lot easier to haul a breastfeeding child around than hauling an infant and all of the stuff needed for formula feeding. I think the readers of this blog know a thing or two about hauling a bunch of supplies around with you.
Finally, it may not be up to you how long your baby breastfeeds. After the boy reached one year, I tried several times to wean him and he was terrible about it. Finally, I decided to let him lead the way on that transition, but he never did, so we stopped at about age 47 months.

Nursing babies tend to love garlic. I don't know why but they do. I say have some garlic and only omit it if you notice it bothers her. On another note, most of the cons will fade after a couple months and you will be left with mostly pros. :) I have collectively breastfed for 5 years (if you add all the years up) and it's definitely worth it. :)

Go you! Thanks for posting something so personal and so important.
BTW - they say it's not supposed to hurt when she latches on. Are you still in touch with the lactation consultant? Also, the leaking will slow down or stop... eventually, probably in a few months.
I nurse my kids everywhere. I'm very discreet, tho I hate nursing tops, and it keeps them from screaming in public! It helps me to remember that not nursing them when they need it is usually not best for them.
@ Mother of type 1 - I weaned one of mine at 3 years and she really fought me on it. I should have listened to her: for several years she still asked about it.

You forgot the MOST important pro--It makes you stop and take time to cuddle that beautiful baby girl while having a bonding experience unlike any other. Only you can provide that for her, and that connection between Mommy and Baby is a wonderful thing! I'm a T2 that breastfed both of my boys for over a year each--it will get easier!

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