Women with gestational (pregnancy) diabetes mellitus (GDM) have a high risk of developing type 2 diabetes after the birth.
Breastfeeding seems to improve early postpartum (after birth) glucose tolerance and reduce the subsequent risk of type 2 diabetes.
To investigate whether breastfeeding influences short- and long-term postpartum diabetes outcomes, women with Gestational Diabetes (GDM) ( n = 304) participating in the prospective German GDM study were followed from delivery for up to 19 years postpartum for diabetes development. All participants were recruited between 1989 and 1999.
Postpartum diabetes developed in 147 women and was dependent on the treatment received during pregnancy (insulin vs. diet), BMI, and presence/absence of islet autoantibodies (which iundicates an auto-immune type diabetes). Among islet autoantibody-negative women, breastfeeding was associated with an average time to diabetes of 12.3 years compared with 2.3 years in women who did not breastfeed.
The lowest postpartum diabetes risk was observed in women who breastfed for >3 months.
On the basis of these results, it appears that breastfeeding should be encouraged for all the usual reasons but now also additionally to protect against diabetes if women have had gestational diabetes.