Research published in the September 2010 issue of The American Journal of Medicine, reports that women who do not breastfeed their infants have as much as twice the risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to those that do. This study confirms what previous studies have shown, but goes further by showing that even as little as one month of breast feeding can cause a significant decrease in the risk of the mother developing diabetes later in life.
The research was reported by several news outlets including a September 10, 2010 Reuters article which quoted the lead author Dr. Eleanor Schwarz of the University of Pittsburgh, “What we found that was somewhat surprising was the pretty dramatic benefits for moms who breastfed as short as a month after the birth of their child.”
The research studied 2233 woman in a large California health plan. In this group 1828 were mothers, of which 56% had breastfed an infant for greater than one month. The researchers then compared the risk of type 2 diabetes among women who consistently breastfed all of their children for more than one month to those women who never had children.
The finding showed that the risk for type 2 diabetes in women who breastfed for a month or more was similar to that of women who had never given birth. However, when researchers compared these groups to women who had given birth but had never breastfed their infants, or who had done so for less than a month, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes was much higher in those that had children, but did not breastfeed for at least a month.
What was interesting in this study was that researchers found that the increased risk of type 2 diabetes for women who did not breastfeed was independent of their physical activity or body mass later in life. The conclusion of the researchers was, “Mothers should be encouraged to exclusively breastfeed all of their infants for at least 1 month.”