Diabetes Prevention and Breastmilk

Did you know that breastfeeding can help prevent diabetes, a disease that affects 25.8 million people in the United States?! Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus (formerly known as insulin dependent diabetes) is the results from an autoimmune destruction of the insulin producing cells in the pancreas. Type 2 diabetes can typically be managed with diet and exercise, and sometimes will require medications. Each year 15,600 children (under the age of 20) are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, and 3,600 with type 2.

The good news is that research consistently shows that breastfeeding reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes in both mothers and children, and type 1 diabetes in children! Brand new research looking at siblings has shown that the longer you breastfeed, the lower the risk your child has for type 1 diabetes. According to researchers there seems to be an ”improved insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance during lactation.” In a study looking at two large cohorts of women, Stuebe et al (2005) found that breastfeeding for 6 months or more significantly improves the risk of women developing type 2 diabetes. This research accounted for other risk factors, such as body mass index (BMI), diet, exercise, and smoking, which predispose one to diabetes, strengthening the findings that lactation is independently at work reducing risk for type 2 diabetes.

Some wonder, “Does it matter if I exclusively breastfeed?” Researchers Stuebe et al (2005) also found that the amount of time moms exclusively breastfeed provides a greater protection against diabetes compared with the total amount of time moms breastfeed at all. For example, if a mom exclusively breastfed her children for a total of two years, compared to a mom who exclusively breastfed her children for a year and partially breastfed for another year (total time breastfeeding at all = 2 years), the mom who exclusively breastfed for two years would have a greater protective affect against her developing type 2 diabetes.

In sum, providing your babies with breast milk for at least 6 months protects both you and your baby from diabetes! It will reduce your chances of developing type 2 diabetes, as well as your child from developing type 1 or type 2 diabetes.