Breastfeeding Moms Lower Diabetes Risk
Study Shows 15% Risk Reduction for Each Year of Lactation
Nov. 22, 2005 -- Women who breastfeed may also be lowering their risk of
developing type 2 diabetes, new research suggests.
Breastfeeding conveys clear health benefits for babies, and there is
mounting evidence that it does the same for moms. The study found that the
longer a woman breastfed, the lower her chances were for developing
Each year of breastfeeding was associated with a 15% reduction in diabetes
risk within the next 15 years, researchers reported.
A woman with two children could potentially lower her risk of developing
type 2 diabetes by almost a third by following the advice of child health
experts and breastfeeding each child for a year, researcher Alison M. Stuebe,
MD, tells WebMD.
The study is published in the Nov. 23/30 issue of The Journal of the
American Medical Association.
"The nice thing about this is that there is no downside to
breastfeeding," says Stuebe, who is an ob-gyn and maternal medicine
researcher at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital. "It is clearly good
for babies, and this study and others suggest that it is good for moms,
Lactation has also been shown to improve blood sugar control, which drives
diabetes risk. But the long-term impact of breastfeeding on diabetes risk has
not been known.
In the newly published research, Stuebe and colleagues at Harvard Medical
School's Brigham and Women's Hospital analyzed data on close to 160,000 female
nurses enrolled in two ongoing health studies. All of the women had provided
information on their breastfeeding history, and roughly 6,200 developed type 2
After controlling for obesity, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, and other type
2 diabetes risk factors, having breastfed within the past 15 years was found to
be strongly protective against the disease. The longer a woman breastfed the
stronger the protection. But the benefits did not appear to extend to older
women whose last birth was more than 15 years past. Women with a history of
gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) had an increased risk for
developing type 2 diabetes. However, lactation did not have an effect on this
The researchers conclude that other clinical studies are needed to confirm
the findings and to better understand why lactation may help protect against
Getting Ob-Gyns on Board
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be breastfed for
at least a year but only a small percentage of new mothers in the U.S. actually
follows the advice.
One problem, Stuebe says, is that ob-gyns have not been as aggressive in
promoting the message as pediatricians have.
"I think this drives home how important it is for all health care
providers to support breastfeeding," she says. "It is clear that women
listen to their obstetricians but not all ob-gyns discuss breastfeeding with