Women who breastfeed their children for the first month of life or more may have a decreased risk for diabetes mellitus (type 2 diabetes), according to a study led by Eleanor Bimla Schwarz at the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Medicine.
This news is just another reason for women to consider breastfeeding their infants. Studies have long concluded that breastfeeding is beneficial for babies, but mothers benefit as well. Not only has breastfeeding been proven to benefit mothers shortly after childbirth by helping mothers reach pre-pregnancy birth weight and helping the uterus return to its normal size, but breastfeeding has also been proven to benefit mothers by reducing risks for cancer and heart disease.
Schwarz’s study, published in the September 2010 issue of The American Journal of Medicine looked at the connection between breastfeeding and developing diabetes mellitus later in life. Women who never breastfed their children exclusively were found to have a greater likelihood for developing type 2 diabetes than women who had exclusively breastfed their children for one to three months or more. The study concluded that the risks were increased no matter what one’s body mass index or level of physical activity.
Schwarz says that people know “[d]iet and exercise are widely known to impact the risk of type 2 diabetes,” but because breastfeeding aids in decreasing belly fat, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes is decreased. Schwarz believes the study should lead medical professionals to encourage new mothers to breastfeed for the first month of their babies’ lives, if not longer.
2,233 women between the ages of 40 and 78 participated in the study which took place from 2003 to 2008. The study showed that of the mothers in the survey, 56 percent had breastfed their infants exclusively for one month or more. However, 27 percent of mothers did not breastfeed and were found to be twice as likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Other factors, such as family history of diabetes and tobacco and alcohol use were accounted for.
The study also suggests that breastfeeding for a longer time can further decrease risks. Women who breastfed their babies for more than six months were less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than women who had breastfed their infants for between one and six months.