New research shows that women with a history of gestational diabetes (GDM) during pregnancy who breastfeed their babies may lower their risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The study of more than 900 women with GDM who were followed up to 2 years found that those who breastfed for more than 2 months had around a 50% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The greatest reduction in risk was seen in mothers who breastfed for 10 months or longer – this was linked to a 57% reduced risk of diabetes.
The researchers also looked at the intensity of breastfeeding, dividing women into five groups: exclusive breast-feeding, exclusive formula feeding, mostly breast, mostly formula and mixed feeding. Mothers who exclusively breast-fed their babies had a 54% lower risk of developing diabetes compared to those who only used formula. Those who gave their babies a mixture of formula and breast milk reduced their risk by around one-third.
Women with GDM are at greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life, and breastfeeding is one way they might reduce this risk, the researchers say.