Delayed secretory activation and low milk production in women with gestational diabetes: a case series

BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2022 Apr 22;22(1):350. doi: 10.1186/s12884-022-04685-0.


Background: Gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) is major pregnancy complication that is associated with short- and long-term consequences for both mother and infant, including increased risk of diabetes later in life. A longer breastfeeding duration has been associated with a reduced risk of diabetes, however, women with GDM are less likely to exclusively breastfeed and have shorter breastfeeding duration. While the timing of breastfeeding initiation and milk removal frequency affects subsequent breastfeeding outcomes, little is known about early infant feeding practices and milk production in women with GDM. This case series offers detailed prospective breastfeeding initiation data, as well as the first report of objective measures of milk production in women with GDM.

Case presentation: In this case series, we present the early infant feeding practices of eight women with GDM that gave birth at term gestation. Women recorded the timing of initiation of breastfeeding and secretory activation, as well as their breastfeeding, expression and formula feeding frequencies on postpartum days 1, 7 and 21. Measurement of 24 h milk production volume was performed at 3 weeks postpartum using the test weight method. We observed a delayed first breastfeed (> 1 h) in 6 (75%) cases, formula use in hospital in 5 (63%) cases and delayed secretory activation in 3 (38%) cases. At 3 weeks postpartum, 2 cases had measured milk productions that were insufficient to sustain adequate infant weight gain.

Conclusions: Our data suggest that despite early and frequent milk removal, women with GDM are at greater risk of delayed secretory activation and low milk supply. Cohort studies that consider co-morbidities such as obesity are needed to determine the lactation outcomes of women with GDM.

Keywords: Breastfeeding; Case series; Gestational diabetes mellitus; Human milk; Lactation.

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding
  • Diabetes, Gestational*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Milk, Human
  • Mothers
  • Pregnancy
  • Prospective Studies