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Nutrition Tips for Postpartum Mothers With Type 1 Diabetes

postpartum mom in sweatpants wearing an insulin pump

Your health affects your developing baby. If you choose to breastfeed, everything you consume can affect your infant. Do you need special nutrition tips if you’re a new mother with Type 1 diabetes? 

Fortunately, this form of the disease has a strong genetic component, with genes from both parents necessary for your child to develop the autoimmune disorder.

mom holding baby in front of her to give them a kiss

Breastfeeding babies have a lower incidence of contracting the disease, but you might worry about how – or if – your diet could influence your child. 

Fortunately, you shouldn’t encounter much trouble if your disease is well-controlled. Here are five nutrition tips for new mothers with Type 1 diabetes. 

1. Watch out for unexpected added sugars 

You probably know that you have to watch your sugar intake. However, did you know breastfeeding increases your sensitivity to insulin and has a long-term positive effect on your glucose metabolism? The one caveat is that you may need to work closely with your doctor to adjust your dose — you may need to reduce how much you take. 

However, you’ll still need to read labels carefully for added sugars. For example, many plant-based milk manufacturers blend emulsifiers and other additives like added sugars to mimic the flavor and texture of the dairy version. That bowl of cereal might affect your levels more than you think. 

What if you accidentally eat too much sugar? What’s the effect on your baby if you take an insulin injection shortly before breastfeeding? Don’t worry — insulin molecules are too large to pass through your breastmilk, although you should check with your doctor if you take any other medications. 

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2. Switch to whole-grain flour 

You probably already know that white, all-purpose flour acts like sugar in your body. It absorbs quickly, causing your blood glucose to spike. 

While manufacturers of all-purpose flour strip away the fiber and nutrient-rich bran and chaff, whole grain flours leave these intact. The result is much slower absorption that won’t lead to blood sugar spikes.

Additionally, fiber nourishes your intestinal microbiome and keeps you feeling fuller longer, curbing the temptation to snack. 

3. Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables 

While no diet can eliminate Type 1 diabetes, the right nutrition can help combat some of the disease’s most debilitating symptoms. For example, diabetic retinopathy can result in blindness. However, controlling your blood sugar and eating a diet rich in yellow and orange foods gives your eyes plenty of beta-carotene to protect your vision. 

Phytochemicals in plants fall into three major categories

  • Carotenoids
  • Chlorophylls
  • Anthocyanins

Additionally, various plants have different combinations of flavonoids, polyphenols, and isoflavones that perform multiple bodily roles. How can you know that you get everything you need? 

The simplest solution is to eat the rainbow every day. Strive to include at least three colors on your plate at every meal. The hues in plants correlate to different phytonutrient profiles, and variety is critical to getting everything you need for nurturing your and your baby’s health. 

woman sitting at table with a salad eating

4. Cut back on red and processed meats 

You might think of meat as a “safe” food if you have Type 1 diabetes. After all, it’s not a naturally occurring sugar source. However, researchers have identified a statistically significant link between Type 1 diabetes and mothers who follow a highly carnivorous diet while expecting and lactating. 

There’s another reason to limit your meat consumption, at least of the processed sandwich variety. The World Health Organization identifies processed meats like salami as carcinogens. Red meat is probable, so if you indulge, opt for chicken or fish with the rare roast beef free of nitrates. 

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5. Remember, your baby eats what you do. 

Remember, your blood sugar levels decrease slightly when you breastfeed. Therefore, you’re probably not going to cause trouble by having a snack before you feed your baby.

Noshing on something sweet could prevent your glucose from dropping too low, and it’s a good idea to keep something on hand when you feed in case you need to grab it in a jiffy. 

What about alcohol? You probably know that excess consumption can dangerously spike your blood sugar. However, this molecule does pass to your baby through your breast milk.

Although the CDC doesn’t require lactating women to refrain from alcohol, you should limit your intake to no more than one a day. 

Also, be aware that overindulging can impact your milk supply. The concentration is highest in the first hour after drinking, so if you indulge, do so after your infant’s evening feeding before putting them to bed for a few hours. 

Nutrition tips for new mothers with type 1 diabetes 

Having a baby is a huge milestone. If you’re a new mother with Type 1 diabetes, it’s natural to worry about what you eat. 

These nutrition tips for new mothers with Type 1 diabetes will start your baby on a healthy foot. Work with your doctor and keep your blood sugar in check, and you and your new infant will benefit from nursing. 

postpartum mom in sweatpants wearing an insulin pump

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