Supporting women with diabetes to breastfeed

Can you describe the aim of this project in 10 words?

Developing an online resource to support breastfeeding women with diabetes

What do we already know about breastfeeding rates in women with diabetes?

Despite exclusive breastfeeding being an important component of optimising neonatal outcomes among infants of mothers with diabetes, women with type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes are less likely to breastfeed, and are likely to breastfeed for a shorter duration than other childbearing women. Our previous study about the transition to motherhood among women with diabetes highlighted the postpartum period as particularly challenging as breastfeeding affected women’s self-management of diabetes.

What have you achieved in this area so far?

Our systematic literature review identified that women with pre-existing diabetes face complex psychosocial challenges when transitioning to motherhood. Women with diabetes are concerned about their own health as well as the impact of their diabetes on the new baby. Our studies demonstrate that the challenges in the early postpartum period may make it difficult for them to breastfeed and simultaneously maintain optimal blood glucose levels. Women therefore sought relevant support and information from the Internet, which enabled them to make decisions about how to best manage diabetes while breastfeeding and caring for an infant. Women were also able to increase their confidence and reduce anxiety by connecting with other women on the website, which also helped them care for their babies.

What aspect of this research excites you the most?

Improving uptake and sustaining breastfeeding in women with diabetes by working closely with both consumers (pregnant and breastfeeding women with T1DM and T2DM), diabetes educators and endocrinologists in developing an online education resource that is aligned with women’s needs and is cost-effective, flexible and easily accessible.

How long before this project might impact patient care?

We aim to provide an online educational resource within 12 months that enables pregnant and breastfeeding women with type 1 and type 2 diabetes to access relevant evidence-based information.

Why is online education the way forward to encourage and support breastfeeding in women with diabetes?

Technology can supplement usual diabetes care by providing educational and motivational support. Australians’ increased access to the internet especially via mobile devices has created opportunities for health professionals to engage with clients via this communication mode. Our research indicates that women with diabetes may feel that their health professionals do not provide them with adequate knowledge, skills and support. Women who have diabetes and have a newborn baby are also often socially isolated. The use of technology to connect such women with others in similar situations has proven to be beneficial and enhance women’s quality of life. Technology offers an affordable, flexible and meaningful way to communicate and connect with other women who have also recently given birth.

What’s your Holy Grail – the one thing you’d like to achieve in your research career?

To improve provision of timely and meaningful support for people with diabetes especially during life changes.

What is your biggest research hurdle?

Undoubtedly, the main hurdle in undertaking research is time and funding. I am therefore very grateful to the Australian Diabetes Educator Association (ADEA) Diabetes Research Foundation for funding this project. This project would not have been possible without this funding.

Who has inspired you in work or life?

Many people have inspired me during my career, however, I am grateful for the mentorship and guidance of Professor Trisha Dunning during my PhD studies and ever since. In relation to women and diabetes, I am entirely grateful to Associate Professor Alison Nankervis for contributing with her expert knowledge and her ongoing support of my work.

Describe your perfect day.

Probably when I see or read about a person with diabetes feeling confident and happy while managing their diabetes Or when I get a multidisciplinary team together with the purpose to improve the quality of life for people with diabetes.

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