A Breastfeeding Benefit — for Mom

Breastfeeding may lower type 2 diabetes risk following gestational diabetes diagnosis

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Jennifer Gershman, PharmD, CPh

(RxWiki News) Breastfeeding is known to provide a wide range of potential health benefits for babies. But what about for moms?

A new study found that women with gestational diabetes (GD) who consistently breastfed their babies for several months after giving birth were half as likely as women who didn't breastfeed to develop type 2 diabetes within two years.

"Both the level and duration of breastfeeding may offer unique benefits to women during the post-delivery period for protection against development of type 2 diabetes after gestational diabetes pregnancy," said lead study author Erica P. Gunderson, PhD, MPH, an epidemiologist at Kaiser Permanente, in a press release.

GD is a type of diabetes that only develops during pregnancy, usually around the 24th week. This condition occurs when the body can't make enough insulin (a hormone) to control blood sugar levels.

Women with a history of GD are more than seven times as likely to develop type 2 diabetes as women without, according to the American Diabetes Association.

For this study, Dr. Gunderson and team looked at 1,035 women diagnosed with GD between 2008 and 2011. Medical exams were conducted six to nine weeks after delivery, and again at one and two years.

About 12 percent of these women developed type 2 diabetes within two years. However, the women who exclusively formula-fed their babies at age 6 to 9 weeks were more than twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes than women who exclusively breastfed.

The women who exclusively breastfed their babies for longer also saw a greater reduced risk of type 2 diabetes — from 35 percent for less than two months of breastfeeding to 57 percent for more than 10 months.

This study was published Nov. 24 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Institutes of Health, Kaiser Permanente and the W. K. Kellogg Foundation funded this research.

Several study authors disclosed potential conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
November 24, 2015
Last Updated:
November 30, 2015