February 06, 2004
permalink Diabetic Mastopathy - Would I be able to breastfeed?

About six years ago I discovered a lump in my left breast and panicked. After much stress, mammograms, ultrasounds and finally a core biopsy, I was diagnosed with 'Diabetic Mastopathy'. thickening of the breast tissue related to long-standing diabetes. It was in no way malignant. Hmmm.

Over the years the thickening increased, which resulted in an endocrinologist (who had never seen the condition before and was not a breast speciliast, so in retrospect he shouldn't have said anything!) remarking that I probably wouldn't be able to breastfeed as there was 'no room for the milk' :-(

I asked the specialist at a breast clinic I attended a couple of years later if she knew whether the condition would affect my ability to breastfeed and she replied, "I don't know". She felt (as did others) that it was quite uncommon and that few women with the condition would be of childbearing age! "You will have to be a case study of one" she remarked!!! **

As soon as I knew I was pregnant I went on a massive search to find out what my chances of breastfeeding were. I talked to my doctor, hospital midwives, my health fund midwife, the Australian Breastfeeding Association, and finally a lactation consultant. I did internet searches. They did internet searches. They asked the experts they knew. None knew. Most had never heard of the condition.

Most however, were positive, saying that the breast had amazing abilities to compensate...

I guess it's obvious that I really wanted to breastfeed. Both for health reasons for my baby and because it seemed just like a lovely natural thing to do. So I really had my fingers crossed...

I'd had a couple of friends though who'd had real trouble with breastfeeding in the early days and they'd really been helped by lactation consultants, often after a string of confusing advice. So I figured I should get a lactation consultant on board before the birth so I'd get all the support I needed to give it my best shot.

I ended up going to see a woman regarded as a bit of a 'guru' in breastfeeding (!) at around 31weeks. She said it was earlier than most women consulted her but I suppose I had in mind that my baby might come early and wanted to be prepared.

She filled me with confidence, poo-pooing the doctor who said my breasts wouldn't be able to make enough milk. She really made me feel supported and armed me with information. Her approach (as I'd been assuming would be adopted) was to treat my condition as she would treat women with similar problems, like cysts.

Said she'd found some information on diabetic mastopathy but nothing on its impact on breastfeeding and wanted to write my case up as a case study and publish it. Said a lactation consultant in another state had also just got a client with diabetic mastopathy. That person was successfully breasfeeding her baby :-) and that she hoped to combine my story with hers in her article.

She talked to me about how the breasts worked to produce milk and how she thought mine might compensate, and before I left she asked to feel my breasts to get an idea of where the lumps were. When I pulled up my top she asked what the stains on my bra were! I hadn't realised it but I had been leaking breastmilk (colostrum!) Eureka. I said, "so they're working" She replied "they certainly are baby!!!"

I left her office with five small syringes in which to store my expressed colostrum (starting at around week 34). I had no real idea how to go about this. But the idea was that should my baby require feeds to counteract low blood sugar after the birth and I was separated from it, my stored colostrum could be used rather than formula, which is often the case for babies of diabetics.

But really what I want to say here, is that going to see a lactation consultant well before the birth because I was worried about the mastopathy turned out to be one of the best things I did during my pregnancy.

There was so much more I needed to know about getting breastfeeding established as a diabetic. Mostly to do with the fact that we are often separated from our babies for a couple of days after the birth. She gave me a list of things to do to give myself the best chance of establishing breastfeeding with my baby. (See the next entry, 'Breastfeeding with Diabetes' for details)

** The mastopathy did not interfere at all with my ability to breastfeed. Once I overcame some initial hurdles I had absolutely no problems with breastfeeding. In terms of the mastopathy, the new milk ducts must have found homes around the thickened tissue. I had plenty of milk! and being able to breastfeed my baby is something I totally relish. I met another woman with Type One Diabetes of a similar age who was expecting her first baby. She'd had diabetes for a similar length of time to me and also had mastopathy. She also was able to breastfeed without any issues related to her Diabetic Mastopathy. So there, a case study of 2! It is definitely possible!!

Posted by M.A. at February 06, 2004 03:43 PM


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