Mothers who breastfeed their children for at least a month are less likely to get Type 2 diabetes than those mothers who did not breastfeed their children at all, according to a study to be published in the September issue of The American Journal of Medicine.
Dr. Eleanor B. Schwarz and a team of researchers looked at data from 2,233 women – between the ages of 40 to 78. First the women were divided up into groups, comparing the mothers who had breastfed to the mothers who hadn’t and then comparing both groups to women who had never been pregnant or given birth.
In the study sample, 1,828 women were mothers. Fifty-six per cent of them had breastfed an infant for more than one month.
The study found mothers who had not breastfed were twice as likely to develop diabetes. The study found 27 per cent of those mothers, developed diabetes. That’s about one in four, Schwarz said.
But women who had breastfed their children – even if only for a month – were at no more risk for developing diabetes than women who had never been pregnant, Schwarz said in an interview with the Star.
These findings “highlight the importance to maternal health of consistent lactation after each birth, and add to a growing body of literature that indicates that women who give birth but do not breastfeed face an increased risk of developing diabetes,” the study concludes.
“Diabetes increases people’s risk of heart disease, heart attacks and strokes,” said Schwarz. The study shows a mother’s decision to breastfeed her baby has long term effects on her health, Schwarz said.
“The very first month after a baby is born is a critical period of recovery.”
Schwarz, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pittsbugh, said new moms need support in the early post partum period to get them breastfeeding and new policies in the workplace should be implemented to allow them to continue breastfeeding even after they return to work.
“We need to have workplace policies that allow new moms to pump breast milk when they return to work,” said Schwarz. “I think for many women not being able to do that means they stop breastfeeding.”
Adds Schwarz: “For women who for whatever reason didn’t breastfeed their infants, it’s important to realize they may be at increased risk and talk to their health care providers to see if any changes should take place in diet or physical activity because they’re at increased risk of developing diabetes.”