A team of researchers led by Erica Gunderson, PhD, a researcher at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, Calif, found that breast-feeding for more than two months was linked to around a 50% reduction in the odds of developing type 2 diabetes for mothers who had already experienced GDM in the past.
"Women with a history of GDM are faced with an extremely high risk for type 2 diabetes; up to 50% diagnosed within 5 years after delivery. In our study, both higher lactation intensity and duration showed strong, graded protective associations with diabetes mellitus incidence, independent of risk factors," Gunderson and colleagues wrote.
‘Breastfeeding can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in women with gestational diabetes mellitus. Breastfeeding for more than two months was linked to around a 50% reduction in the odds of developing type 2 diabetes.
However, previous studies were insufficient to conclude that breastfeeding protected women against type 2 diabetes.
"Our findings will have major implications for health care systems to allocate greater resources for provision of breastfeeding education and support services to high-risk women with GDM so that they may breastfeed optimally and lower their risk," Gunderson said. "Breastfeeding is likely to become the centerpiece of early diabetes prevention strategies during the postpartum period."
The study involved more than 1,000 women with GDM. Around 75% of this cohort was Hispanic, Asian, or black. The women were given oral glucose tolerance tests at baseline and annually for 2 years. Around 12% of study participants developed type 2 diabetes during the 2-year follow up.