Can breastfeeding protect a mother from type 2 diabetes?

Can breastfeeding protect a mother from type 2 diabetes
Written by StopDiabetes

Although several studies seem to indicate that breastfeeding can cause certain changes in a mother’s body that may help protect against type 2 diabetes, the connection has not been proven. But there are some indications that this may be true. For example, one recent study looked at 1,000 ethnically diverse women who had been diagnosed with gestational diabetes. The researchers examined each woman in terms of, for example, lactation intensity and duration. They then tested the women’s blood glucose six to nine weeks after delivery and annually for two years after. By that time, almost 12 percent of the women developed type 2 diabetes, and after accounting for several factors (such as age or other risk factors), the researchers found that women who exclusively breastfed or mostly breastfed were about half as likely to develop type 2 diabetes as those who did not breastfeed. In addition, the researchers found that the length of time a woman breastfed affected her chances of developing type 2 diabetes. Women who breastfed longer than two months lowered the risk of type 2 diabetes by almost half and beyond five months lowered the risk by more than half. But again, more research needs to be done.

Should a mother take diabetes medication while breastfeeding?

If a mother with diabetes decides to breastfeed her baby and takes either insulin or oral medication, it is important to understand certain safety factors while breastfeeding—not only for the baby’s health but for the mother’s sake, too. According to the American Diabetes Association, most diabetes medications can be taken safely as a woman breastfeeds her baby, but the ADA strongly advocates that the woman check with her doctor just to be sure.

What are some tips for mothers who have diabetes and wish to breastfeed their infant?

According to the American Diabetes Association, breastfeeding can be a challenge for mothers who have diabetes, especially because it often makes it harder to stabilize blood glucose levels. The organization suggests that to prevent lower blood glucose levels, the mother should plan to have a snack before or during nursing, drink plenty of fluids (such as water or a caffeine-free beverage) while nursing, and have something nearby to eat in case of low blood glucose so the child’s feeding will not be interrupted. And as always when breastfeeding, it is best to get the right amount of fluids, nutrients, and proteins. Such a nutritional plan can be worked out between a health care professional or dietitian and the breastfeeding mother.


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