Does breastfeeding prevent diabetes in mothers?

In the general population, breastfeeding is associated with a reduced risk of the offspring being overweight later in life by 22% to 24% across the age spectrum, from preschool children to adults.

There is a dose-response gradient with increasing duration of breast-feeding, and lowest risk with prolonged, exclusive breastfeeding. Breastfeeding has been shown to slow infant growth up to 2 years of age. By contrast, the scientific evidence is inconclusive about whether breast-feeding protects against the onset of overweight and subsequent development of type 2 diabetes among offspring whose mothers had diabetes during pregnancy.

Moreover, the evidence is insufficient to determine if lactation protects against the development of type 2 diabetes later in life in women with a diabetes history during pregnancy. Given the paucity of the evidence and equivocal findings of the long-term effects of breastfeeding on the future health of women with diabetes during pregnancy and their infants, further research is recommended.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all infants should be exclusively breastfed through 6 months of age and that breastfeeding should continue until the infant is 1 year of age [59]. Although 80% of US women initiate lactation, 45% percent report “any” breastfeeding at 6 months and less than 20% report “exclusively” breastfeeding their infants at 6 months. Thus, increasing lactation rates among women has substantial potential for positive effects on infant and maternal health in the general population.

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