OAKLAND, Calif., Nov. 24 (UPI) -- The benefits of breastfeeding for children are well known, but mothers can see gains in their health as well.
Women with gestational diabetes who breastfeed from the time they give birth can cut their risk of developing type 2 diabetes in half, according to a new study.
Researchers said the study's results show the importance of properly educating women on breastfeeding and improving early diabetes prevention efforts by health care professionals.
"Both the level and duration of breastfeeding may offer unique benefits to women during the post-delivery period for protection against development of type 2 diabetes after gestational diabetes pregnancy," said Dr. Erica Gunderson, an epidemiologist and senior research scientist at the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research, in a press release.
Researchers at Kaiser Permanente, one of the largest managed care companies in the United States, enrolled 1,010 of its members in Northern California diagnosed with gestational diabetes between 2008 and 2011. Of the participants, 75 percent of women in the study were of Asian, Hispanic or African-American heritage.
The women were given in-person exams between six and nine weeks after delivery as they joined the study, and 95 percent of the women, who did not have diabetes when they enrolled, also were given exams at one and two years after delivery.
The researchers found 11.8 percent of women developed type 2 diabetes within two years of giving birth. Higher lactation and longer duration of breastfeeding was associated with progressively lower chances of developing the condition, ranging from a 35 percent to 57 percent reduction in the risk of diabetes. Women who exclusively formula-fed their babies were roughly twice as likely to develop diabetes.
"These findings highlight the importance of prioritizing breastfeeding education and support for women with gestational diabetes as part of early diabetes prevention efforts by health care systems," Gunderson said.
The study is published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.