Many people with diabetes and gestational diabetes meet their breastfeeding goals but others may experience challenges with their milk supply and/or delays in developing a full milk supply. Insulin is an essential hormone for full milk production and luckily there are many things we can do during pregnancy and postpartum to support our bodies and meet our breastfeeding goals.
Working with your Registered Dietitian and a Lactation Consultant as part of your health team is helpful for creating a plan that works well for your individual needs.
Nutritional Supports During Pregnancy and Postpartum:
Fiber! Oats are a really excellent source of fiber and they can help you feel full longer as well as stabilize your blood sugar. Try adding a handful into a morning protein smoothie. Your Dietician can share many other recipe ideas that might work for you. Quinoa is another great choice for protein and fiber!
B12 is a necessary vitamin that we get from animal sources. It gives us energy and maintains our nervous system. Getting adequate B12 from meat, fish, eggs, cheese, milk, and some fortified whole grain cereals throughout your pregnancy and postpartum period will support milk production.
Vitamin D is very important for lots of functions in our body. It supports our immune system, maintains healthy bones, and is supportive of our mood regulation. You’ll find it in milk, egg yolks, salmon, tuna, and in some fortified whole grain cereals. Be sure to get your recommended daily amount!
Calcium and Protein from dairy-free sources may be advised. Salmon, tofu, dark green leafy veggies, nut butters, and grass fed meat are good sources.
Other foods and herbs
Cumin – anti-diabetic, enhances mammary growth
Dill – works best with other herbs, supports insulin, diuretic (helps with swelling and engorgement)
Fennel – anti-androgenic, digestive support, diuretic
Myo-inositol – natural sugar found in citrus fruits, cantaloupe, and some beans which regulates blood sugars, can also be taken as a supplement
Herbs to support milk production
Each herb does a different job; there is no one size fits all. Below are some common herbs for insulin resistance shown to support milk production
Goat’s rue taken during the 3rd trimester and for the first 6 weeks can encourage glandular growth (the milk making cells). You can find it in drops called tinctures or in capsules. Vitex or Chasteberry is an herb commonly used for hormonal regulation. It can also be taken during pregnancy and postpartum.
Discuss the use of these herbs with your provider to determine which is right for your circumstances!
AVOID fenugreek. This herb is found in lots of lactation blends but it’s not an appropriate choice for people with diabetes as it affects your blood sugar and reduces the absorption of other oral medications.
If you are not at risk for preterm delivery, milk expression during pregnancy is a good idea. Not only does this stimulate for better long term milk production but you can freeze your colostrum and have it available after delivery if baby has hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). This decreases the chance that your baby will need donor milk or formula. Talk with your IBCLC about how to safely do this.
Megan Dunn, IBCLC