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Diabetes Health Center

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Breastfeeding by Diabetic Moms Cuts Babies’ Obesity Risk

Experts Say Breastfeeding Also Benefits Moms by Helping Them Recover From Gestational Diabetes

Maternal Diabetes and Childhood Obesity continued...

“Now the interesting question is why do these effects persist over the life course? And here is where we don’t quite know everything,” Dabelea says, “But one of the proposed mechanisms is that since these offspring are overnourished in utero, this hypernutrition changes their satiety point so they only feel full when they’re overfed.”

“And they tend to consume increased amounts of food throughout their life because their satiety point has been altered, permanently,” she adds.

Breastfeeding Combats Obesity

For the study, Dabelea and her colleagues compared the fat distribution, height, waist measurements, and body mass index (BMI) of 89 children born to diabetic mothers to those of 379 children who had not been exposed to diabetes in utero. The average age of the children in the study was 10.

Mothers were asked about whether they breastfed their babies or used formula. They were also asked how long they breastfed and when they introduced solid foods and other beverages.

Because so many moms mixed breast milk and formula feedings, the researchers developed a sliding scale, between 0 and 1, that they used to statistically weight each child’s exposure to breast milk.

The researchers found that among those children who were exposed to diabetes in the womb, those who were breastfed for less than six months had significantly higher BMIs, had thicker waists, and stored more fat around their midsections compared to children who were breastfed for more than six months.

What’s more, when they compared children who were exposed to diabetes to those who weren’t, they only saw significant differences in those who were breastfed for less than six months. The groups looked nearly the same when they were breastfed for six months or more, indicating that the disadvantage conveyed by being exposed to diabetes had been wiped out.

Breastfeeding May Protect Mother and Infant

“What we wanted to do was look at what we would consider a high-risk group and to see if breastfeeding had an impact on obesity in that setting,” says study researcher Stephen Daniels, MD, PhD, pediatrician-in-chief at Children’s Hospital in Denver. “And what we found, in fact, is that breastfeeding does seem to be protective.”

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