Diabetes and Breastfeeding

Mothers with diabetes are encouraged to breastfeed their babies whenever possible. Though it offers many benefits for both the baby and mother, diabetes can make breastfeeding more difficult by affecting milk supply and blood sugar levels.

This article will explore the benefits and potential challenges of breastfeeding if you have type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes.

Woman breastfeeding her baby

PeopleImages / Getty Images

Benefits for Mom

Mothers who breastfeed reap many health benefits, including a decreased risk for certain cancers and health conditions, weight loss, and quicker recovery after delivery.

Lower Risk of Type 2 Diabetes After Gestational Diabetes

Though gestational diabetes often goes away after birth, half of the women diagnosed develop type 2 diabetes later in life. Breastfeeding can decrease your risk because it helps your body process insulin and glucose more efficiently.

The amount of time you breastfeed also impacts your odds of developing type 2 diabetes. One study found breastfeeding for more than two months may decrease the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by nearly half. Breastfeeding for over five months was associated with more than one-half reduction in risk.

Additionally, mothers with type 1 diabetes may require less insulin, and mothers with type 2 diabetes may experience better blood sugar control while breastfeeding.

Helps Shed 'Baby' Weight

Breastfeeding can help you lose weight and return to your pre-pregnancy weight more quickly. This is partly because breastfeeding can burn as much as 500 calories daily, the equivalent of running at a steady pace for about 45 minutes.

One study found women who exclusively breastfed for three months lost 3.2 more pounds in the first 12 months than those who did not.

Breastfeeding mothers trying to lose weight should consume at least 1,800 calories daily to maintain their breast milk supply. Losing 1 pound per week is considered safe.

Lower Risk of Cancers

Breastfeeding may help decrease a woman's risk of breast and ovarian cancers. Breastfeeding women often experience hormonal changes that delay the return of their period. This reduces their lifetime exposure to certain hormones (estrogen) linked to an increased risk of these cancers.

Quicker Recovery From Delivery

Breastfeeding stimulates the release of hormones that help the uterus shrink to its normal size. This can reduce postpartum bleeding and help you recover from childbirth more quickly and easily.

Benefits for Baby

In addition to supplying optimal amounts of nutrients and energy to support a baby's growth and development, breastfeeding can help protect babies against diabetes and other health problems later in life.

Lower Risk of Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes

Breastfed babies have a lower risk of developing type 1 diabetes and obesity, a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

A review of existing research found babies who were breastfed for at least six to 12 months were less likely to develop type 1 diabetes than those who were breastfed for a shorter duration.

Though research appears promising, we still need additional studies to clarify the role of nonexclusive and exclusive breastfeeding in developing type 1 diabetes.

Fewer Health Problems

Babies who are breastfed often have strong immune systems because breastmilk contains antibodies that have been passed down from the mother.

Research suggests breastfed babies have a lower risk of health concerns throughout life than those who are not breastfed. These include:

How Long Should You Breastfeed?

The American Diabetes Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the World Health Organization recommend exclusive breastfeeding for six months. After six months, breastfeeding should continue along with the introduction of age-appropriate foods until 2. A longer duration of breastfeeding results in greater health benefits for the child and the mother.

Managing Medications

When breastfeeding with diabetes, here are a few things to consider when managing your medications.

Safety of Breastmilk

Medications, including Glucophage (metformin) and insulin, are considered safe while breastfeeding. More research is needed on the newer drugs used to treat diabetes.

There is insufficient data on the following medications:

  • GLP-1 agonists, taken as daily or weekly injections, are contraindicated during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Examples include Trulicity (dulaglutide) and Ozempic (semaglutide).
  • SGLT-2 inhibitors increase glucose excretion in the urine and are contraindicated during pregnancy and breastfeeding (based on animal studies). Examples include Jardiance (empagliflozin) and Steglatro (ertugliflozin).
  • DPP-4 inhibitors lower sugar by helping the body increase insulin production after meals. They are contraindicated in those with type 1 diabetes and during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Examples: Januvia (sitagliptin) and Tradjenta (linagliptin)

Changes in Insulin Needs

Studies show that the insulin requirements for a mother with type 1 diabetes are approximately 21% lower than pre-pregnancy doses.

Additionally, breastfeeding burns calories and may aid in weight loss, lowering your need for insulin therapy. Your healthcare team can work with you to adjust your insulin and other medications during this time.

Breastfeeding Issues Related to Diabetes

Though breastfeeding offers many benefits for both mom and baby, it comes with some challenges.

Low Milk Supply

Good blood sugar control is important for lactation. Studies suggest that having gestational diabetes or preexisting type 1 or type 2 diabetes may be associated with a low milk supply.

Researchers found nursing mothers with a low milk supply were more likely to have a diabetes diagnosis during pregnancy than latch problems or nipple issues. Also noted, women with insulin resistance and a higher body mass index (BMI) are more likely to have low milk production.


Breastfeeding can increase the risk of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) because your body will use sugar from your blood to make breast milk. Mothers should carefully monitor their blood sugar levels while breastfeeding.

You may find it helpful to eat a snack or meal before breastfeeding. Additionally, keeping 4 ounces (1/2 cup) of fruit juice or a tube of glucose gel on hand while breastfeeding can help raise your blood sugar if it becomes too low.


Women with diabetes are at greater risk for developing nipple thrush, a yeast infection that occurs on the nipples of breastfeeding women.

Symptoms of nipple thrush commonly include:

  • Nipple burning or itching
  • Sore nipples
  • Flaky or cracked nipples

Treatment for nipple thrush often consists of topical antifungal medications and topical antibiotics.

Getting Breastfeeding Help

As you navigate breastfeeding with diabetes, working closely with your healthcare provider and lactation consultant is important. A board-certified lactation consultant can help you prevent and manage common breastfeeding concerns.

Joining a breastfeeding support group is also an excellent way to discuss common concerns and connect with others who have breastfed with diabetes.


Though breastfeeding mothers with diabetes may face challenges, it offers many benefits, both for moms and babies. Breastfed babies have a lower risk of diabetes and other health conditions. Mothers with diabetes who breastfeed often have better blood sugar control and other benefits. If you are struggling with a low milk supply or any other nursing problem, a lactation consultant or your healthcare provider can help.

A Word From Verywell

Every woman's breastfeeding journey is different. You may experience some problems or none at all. Though it's recommended to breastfeed for at least six months, any amount of breastmilk you can provide your baby with is beneficial. If you cannot breastfeed, formula is also a good choice and can provide the nutrients your baby needs to grow and thrive.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can I breastfeed if I take metformin?

    Yes, metformin and insulin are safe to use while breastfeeding.

  • Can breastfeeding reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes?

    Yes. Breastfeeding can help reduce the mother and the child's risk of type 2 diabetes later in life.

  • What should I do for low blood sugar when breastfeeding?

    If your blood sugar is low during breastfeeding, eat or drink approximately 15 grams of carbohydrates (e.g., 4 ounces of juice, three to four glucose tablets, or 1 tablespoon of sugar, honey, or syrup). Always keep these foods on you while breastfeeding.

18 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Diabetes Association. Breastfeeding and diabetes.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Gestational diabetes and pregnancy.

  3. National Institutes of Health. Breastfeeding may help prevent type 2 diabetes after gestational diabetes.

  4. La Leche League GB. Diabetes and breastfeeding.

  5. Kominiarek MA, Rajan P. Nutrition recommendations in pregnancy and lactation. Med Clin North Am. 2016;100(6):1199-1215. doi:10.1016/j.mcna.2016.06.004

  6. Jarlenski MP, Bennett WL, Bleich SN, Barry CL, Stuart EA. Effects of breastfeeding on postpartum weight loss among U.S. women. Prev Med. 2014;69:146-150. doi:10.1016/j.ypmed.2014.09.018

  7. La Leche League International. Weight loss - for mothers.

  8. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Breastfeeding for cancer prevention.

  9. American Academy of Pediatrics. Why breastfeed: benefits for you & your baby.

  10. Lampousi A-M, Carlsson S, Löfvenborg JE. Dietary factors and risk of islet autoimmunity and type 1 diabetes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. EBioMedicine. 2021;72. doi:10.1016/j.ebiom.2021.103633

  11. American Academy of Pediatrics. Breastfeeding benefits your baby’s immune system.

  12. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Breastfeeding benefits both baby and mom.

  13. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Breastfeeding - FAQs.

  14. American College of Cardiology. SGLT2 inhibitors and GLP-1 receptor agonists: Indications.

  15. Gallwitz B. Clinical Use of DPP-4 Inhibitors. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2019;10:389. Published 2019 Jun 19. doi:10.3389/fendo.2019.00389

  16. Drugs and Lactation Database. Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US). Insulin.

  17. Riddle SW, Nommsen-Rivers LA. A case control study of diabetes during pregnancy and low milk supply. Breastfeed Med. 2016;11(2):80-85. doi:10.1089/bfm.2015.0120

  18. La Leche League International. Thrush.

By Lindsey DeSoto, RD, LD
Lindsey Desoto is a registered dietitian with experience working with clients to improve their diet for health-related reasons. She enjoys staying up to date on the latest research and translating nutrition science into practical eating advice to help others live healthier lives.