The decision to breastfeed or use formula is one of those polarizing parenting subjects akin to co-sleeping or hiring a nanny versus using day care. Breastfeeding can be a real challenge for busy moms, but researchers continue to find more and more examples of how breastfeeding benefits a baby’s immune system. In addition ato delivering antibodies, breastfeeding reduces a baby’s risk of asthma. Breastfed babies also have fewer ear infections, respiratory conditions, and hospitalizations. When the topic of breastfeeding comes up, the focus is often on the impact breastfeeding has on the baby. New research published in the Annals of Internal Medicine shows that breastfeeding can also greatly benefit the mother by reducing the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Can Breastfeeding Reduce Your Risk of Type 2 Diabetes?
The study focused on 900 women two years after they gave birth. The women in the study each had gestational diabetes during their pregnancy. Breastfeeding for over two months reduced their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 50%. Study participants who both breastfed and used formula experienced a 30% reduction in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Study author Erica Gunderson, a senior research scientist at Kaiser Permanente Northern California, explains how breastfeeding allows the insulin-producing cells in the body to take a break, so to speak, because they don’t have to generate as much insulin to lower blood glucose. Breastfeeding also burns glucose and fat in the bloodstream because those nutrients are used in creating milk. Breastfeeding brings the body’s metabolism back to normalcy “after the metabolic chaos of pregnancy,” says Dr. Alison Strube, assistant professor of maternal-fetal medicine with the University of North Carolina School of Medicine – Chapel Hill.
Breastfeeding – A Healthy Choice for Mom and Baby
There are a variety of reasons why some women choose not to breastfeed—busy schedules, difficulty finding a secluded space to breastfeed in public, and because babies digest formula more slowly so bottle feedings may be less frequent. Whatever a mother’s ultimate decision, this study is encouraging in that it shows that mothers who had gestational diabetes can still benefit from a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes by using a combination of breastfeeding and formula. If you’re a new or expecting mom, talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of breastfeeding and using formula to make an informed decision about the best option for you and your baby.