Risk associated with diabetic mothers breast milk.




Diabetes Care

Related Monographs

Consumer Data: Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2
Professional Data: Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2


Diabetes mellitus, a term that means "the running through of sugar," was first identified in the 1st century AD.1 The disease was described in old books as "the melting down of flesh into urine." Diabetes mellitus is a chronic condition where there is less insulin than what the body needs. This can be low insulin, a problem with the release of insulin, insulin that cannot work in the cells that need it, or insulin that is inactivated before it is able to function. Diabetes mellitus is a disease in which the body does not produce or does not use insulin effectively.

Insulin is a hormone produced in the pancreas by the beta cells in the Islets of Langerhans. The release of insulin by these special cells is regulated by the amount of glucose in the blood. It is responsible for transporting glucose (from carbohydrates) into the cells for energy production. After a meal, when blood sugar increases, insulin release increases. Between meals, when blood sugar is low, insulin release is low. Insulin is released from the pancreas directly into the liver where some is used and some is broken down and eliminated from the body. The rest is released into the general blood circulation. By helping to move glucose into the cells, insulin decreases blood sugar. Insulin also decreases the breakdown of stored fat and builds triglycerides. Insulin is involved in the production of protein. The proper growth and development of children is dependent on insulin.

In earlier studies, breastfed children have shown a decreased risk of diabetes as well as obesity. In contrast to this, a new study investigating 112 offspring of diabetic mothers (ODM) has reported some interesting results. The researchers examined and recorded the intake of diabetic breast milk or non-diabetic donor breast milk in these children for the first seven days of life. At 2 years of age, the children were then evaluated for relative body weight and glucose tolerance. The results of this study illustrated a positive correlation between overweight children and ingestion of diabetic breast milk. The weight association was inversely related to the non-diabetic milk. Impaired glucose tolerance risk decreased as the amount of non-diabetic milk increased. The authors concluded, "Early neonatal ingestion of breast milk from diabetic mothers may increase risk of becoming overweight and, consequently, developing IGT during childhood. Additional studies are needed to assess long-term consequences that might result from the type of neonatal nutrition in ODM."2


1. Porth CM. Pathophysiology. Philadelphia: JB Lippincott Co; 1990.
2. Plagemann A, et al.Long-Term Impact of Neonatal Breast-Feeding on Body Weight and Glucose Tolerance in Children of Diabetic Mothers. Diabetes Care. Jan 2002;25:16-22.