Promoting breastfeeding in women with gestational diabetes mellitus in high-income settings: an integrative review

Georgia Otter, Deborah Davis, Ella Kurz, Mary Ellen Hooper, Alison Shield, Indira Samarawickrema, Sarah Spiller, Marjorie Atchan

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Background: Breastfeeding provides many short- and long-term health benefits for mothers and their infants and is a particularly relevant strategy for women who experience Gestational Diabetes Mellitus (GDM) during pregnancy. However, breastfeeding rates are generally lower amongst this group of women than the general population. This review’s objective is to identify the factors that influence breastfeeding by exploring the experiences and outcomes of women in in high-income health care contexts when there is a history of GDM in the corresponding pregnancy. Methods: A comprehensive search strategy explored the electronic databases Medline, CINAHL, Web of Science and Scopus for primary studies exploring breastfeeding practices for papers published between January 2011 and June 2023. All papers were screened independently by two researchers with included papers assessed using the Crowe Critical Appraisal tool. Findings were analysed using a narrative synthesis framework. Results: From an initial search result of 1037 papers, 16 papers representing five high-income nations were included in this review for analysis – the United States of America (n = 10), Australia (n = 3), Finland (n = 1), Norway (n = 1), and Israel (n = 1). Fifteen papers used a quantitative design, and one used a qualitative design. The total number of participants represented in the papers is 963,718 of which 812,052 had GDM and 151,666 did not. Women with an immediate history of GDM were as likely to initiate breastfeeding as those without it. However, they were more likely to have the first feed delayed, be offered supplementation, experience delayed lactogenesis II and or a perception of low supply. Women were less likely to exclusively breastfeed and more likely to completely wean earlier than the general population. Maternity care practices, maternal factors, family influences, and determinants of health were contextual and acted as either a facilitator or barrier for this group. Conclusion: Breastfeeding education and support need to be tailored to recognise the individual needs and challenges of women with a history of GDM. Interventions, including the introduction of commercial milk formula (CMF) may have an even greater impact and needs to be very carefully considered. Supportive strategies should encompass the immediate and extended family who are major sources of influence.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalInternational Breastfeeding Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 18 Jan 2024


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