Studies show that breasting isn't just good for baby.

By Gillie Houston
Updated May 24, 2017
Breastfeeding Protects Against Diabetes
Credit: © Getty Images/Image Source

Breastfeeding has been proven to be highly beneficial to the health of child, but as it turns out, it could give mom a health boost too. A new study by the Helmholtz Zentrum Munchen research center for environmental health has found that a metabolic shift that occurs during breastfeeding could lower the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in new mothers with gestational diabetes.

Gestational diabetes is a common complication that impacts pregnant women, developing around the 24th week of pregnancy and then going away following birth and lowered blood sugar levels. However, one in two mothers affected by gestational diabetes develops Type 2 diabetes within the next 10 years, according to Science Daily.

The Helmholtz researchers, along with their partners at the German Center for Diabetes Research and the Technical University of Munich, examined the breastfeeding practices of almost 200 patients who had developed gestational diabetes during their pregnancy to analyze how that complication impacted their risk of Type 2 diabetes down the line.

They found that women who breastfed for more than three months had a significantly lower chance of developing Type 2 for 15 years down the line than women who lactated for a shorter amount of time. The reason for this, the researchers suggest, lies in the maternal metabolism. Breastfeeding for longer can result in long-term metabolic changes, and these changes apparently reduce the chance of redeveloping the disease. According to lead author Daniela Much, longer lactation periods are often due to "the production of phospholipids and to lower concentrations of branched-chain amino acids in the mothers' blood plasma."

This could mean a completely natural, cost-effective solution to the post-birth diabetes risk. "The findings of our study provide new insights into disease-related metabolic pathways that are influenced by lactation," says Dr. Sandra Hummel, head of the Gestational Diabetes research group that lead the story. According to Hummel: "The aim is now to develop strategies that will improve the breastfeeding behaviors of mothers with gestational diabetes," in hopes that this research could make an impact on the lives and health of mothers who have suffered through this pregnancy-induced complication.