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Breastfeeding a child with diabetes - Hannah

Hi, my name is Hannah and I thought it maybe useful to share my story

of breastfeeding in hospital.

My little boy, Toby was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes a few days after his first birthday. He had been drinking a lot of water- including the Pool for the whole of a swimming lesson, for a few days and his nappies were huge and had started to leak which had never happened before. I am a dietitian and have worked with adults with diabetes so know the signs and symptoms but did just think I was being paranoid. There is no family history of diabetes in our family.

I took Toby to the GP on the Thursday before May bank holiday but the GP didn’t think he had diabetes as he wasn’t sick enough and hadn’t lost weight. He asked me to bring in a urine sample the next day just to check.

Thankfully I followed through with this and took a sample in the next morning. I didn’t think much more about it as I still thought I was just a paranoid dietitian mum but I did call the surgery around 4pm. The receptionist just told me there were ketones and glucose in Toby’s urine. I started to panic trying to think if there was any other reason apart from diabetes for this. She just said someone would call me back. A few minutes later I realised it was almost 5pm on the Friday before a bank holiday and we’d need to get to hospital fast. I called her back and asked a doctor to call me back ASAP. The GP called me back a few minutes later and told us not to delay, to get to our local hospital ASAP and to take clothes as we’d be staying at least overnight. They were waiting for us to arrive.

We ran around the house throwing things into a bag and headed off to hospital. The team was waiting for us and ushered us into a room where they pricked Toby’s toe and put the strip into the glucose monitor. I was looking at the machine as it flashed up 28.8. I locked eyes with the consultant as I knew that was it, he had type 1 diabetes. The next few hours were a blur as Toby had more tests and about 11pm we were sent up to the Childrens' Ward. 

When I saw the room my heart sank- there was a bed and a cot. Toby hated the cot at home and we co-slept. I mentioned this to the nurse and she organised a bed with sides so we could safely co- sleep and a separate bed for my husband. 

A little while later a few nurses returned to give Toby his first insulin injection. I was breastfeeding him at the time and he was almost asleep. I asked if I had to stop but they just gave him his first injection as I fed him and he didn’t flinch. In that moment breastfeeding helped both Toby and me to cope. 

The nurse returned a few minutes later and although she seemed a little shocked I was feeding a one year old she said how lovely it was to see and if I needed any extra food or drinks even if it was in the middle of the night just to call her to ask. 

The next day every time Toby needed an injection I fed him and although he did cry he calmed down very quickly afterwards. 

We had to learn how to count the grams of carbohydrate in every food to match it with the right quantity of insulin. I was worried about having to express my milk to know how many carbs were in the milk - I’ve never got on well with expressing but they just said they would monitor it and breastmilk never seemed to have a huge impact so I didn’t have to express. 

We stayed in a few nights and then were sent home. The diabetes nurse came out three times a day for the first week or so to help us learn how to do the injections. I breastfed him when I could but I also needed to learn how to do it. I sobbed and my hands shook uncontrollably through most of them. 

Things eventually got a little easier and eventually I stopped feeding him for every injection as I didn’t want him to associate pain with each feed. 

Toby is now 3 years old and I’m still feeding him just before bed and in the early morning. He is now on an insulin pump and continuous glucose monitor and we have to change the cannulas every three days. He gets upset when we do this but occasionally I still feed him afterwards to calm him down.

I honestly feel breastfeeding has helped me cope with the whole thing. 

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