Breastfeeding for six months or longer cuts the risk of developing type 2 diabetes nearly in half for women throughout their childbearing years, according to new research from U.S. HMO Kaiser Permanente published Jan. 16 in JAMA Internal Medicine.
“We found a very strong association between breastfeeding duration and lower risk of developing diabetes, even after accounting for all possible confounding risk factors,” said lead author Erica P. Gunderson, PhD, MS, MPH, senior research scientist with the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research.
Women who breastfed for six months or more across all births had a 47 percent reduction in their risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to those who did not breastfeed at all. Women who breastfed for six months or less had a 25 percent reduction in diabetes risk.
The Evidence Mounts: Breastfeeding has Protective Effects
The new findings add to a growing body of evidence that breastfeeding has protective effects for both mothers and their offspring, including lowering a mother’s risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
The CARDIA findings are also consistent with those of the NIH-funded Study of Women, Infant Feeding and Type 2 Diabetes after GDM Pregnancy (SWIFT), also led by Gunderson, which includes routine biochemical screening for diabetes in women after gestational diabetes from the early postpartum period and years later.
The long-term benefits of breastfeeding on lower diabetes risk were similar for black women and white women, and women with and without gestational diabetes.
Black women were three times as likely as white women to develop diabetes within the 30-year study, which is consistent with higher risk found by others. Black women enrolled in CARDIA were also less likely to breastfeed than white women.
Based on the strong evidence for the numerous health benefits of breastfeeding for mothers and babies, Kaiser Permanente provides support for all mothers who choose to breastfeed.