Breast-feeding is already known to provide such important health benefits to infants that medical professionals universally recommend that all mothers who are capable of doing so breast-feed exclusively for at least the first month of life, and ideally quite a bit longer.
“Dr. Ruth Lawrence, author of Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Profession, says that, depending on the mother’s wishes, breast-feeding should continue for at least a year, along with other foods as they are introduced, and even longer if the mother feels it is best for her and her child,” writes Phyllis A. Balch in the book Prescription for Nutritional Healing, 4th Edition.
“Our study provides another good reason to encourage women to breastfeed their infants, at least for the infant’s first month of life,” researcher Eleanor Schwarz said. “Clinicians need to consider women’s pregnancy and lactation history when advising women about their risk for developing type 2 diabetes.”
Researchers surveyed 2,233 women between the ages of 40 and 78. They found similar diabetes rates between women who had never given birth and mothers who had breast-fed their infants for at least one month (58 breast-fed). Women who had not breast-fed for that long (27 percent) were significantly more likely than either other group to develop the disease, however. These differences remained significant even after adjusting for other diabetes risk factors such as age, alcohol and tobacco use, ethnicity and physical activity level.
“We have seen dramatic increases in the prevalence of Type 2 diabetes over the last century,” Schwarz said. “Diet and exercise are widely known to impact the risk of Type 2 diabetes, but few people realize that breast-feeding also reduces mothers’ risk of developing the disease later in life by decreasing maternal belly fat.”