Pregnancy is a memorable experience, but developing gestational diabetes can throw you for a loop. This type of diabetes, which only shows up during pregnancy, affects 2 to 10% of pregnancies in the USA. And while it typically disappears after delivery, it increases the risk for type 2 diabetes.
For every 100 women with gestational diabetes, 60 will develop type 2 in the next 10 years. So how can you limit the chances? According to multiple studies, breastfeeding can lend a hand. This is even more important if you have other diabetes risk factors like obesity or a family history of the disease. By focusing on prevention, you can avoid problems down the line.1 2 3
It’s an added perk of giving your little one optimal nutrition! In the first few days after birth, breast milk is thick, yellow, and full of antibodies and nutrition. During this time, it’s called colostrum and helps the baby’s digestive system develop. Afterward, breast milk is healthy enough to support growth for the first 6 months. As for your risk of type 2 diabetes? Check out what science has to say.4 5 6
Breastfeeding And Type 2 Diabetes Risk
After dealing with gestational diabetes, you might wonder if it’s a good idea to breastfeed. Here’s the good news: It will help your health! In a 2015 study in Annals of Internal Medicine, 1035 women who had gestational diabetes had 3 examinations 6 to 9 weeks after delivery. For the next 2 years, they had annual follow-ups to check for diabetic markers. Breastfeeding habits and duration were recorded.7
By the end of the study, researchers found that frequent breastfeeding and longer duration independently lowered the risk for type 2 diabetes. Specifically, that risk dropped 4 to 12%, a benefit that’s linked to lactation’s ability to improve glucose intolerance during the early postpartum period.8 9
Healthy Habits To Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Breastfeeding isn’t the only way to keep type 2 diabetes at arm’s length. By following these healthy habits, you can steer clear of this chronic disease.
1. Eat Well
While you’re no longer housing a baby, food is still important. Gestational diabetes diminishes the function of pancreatic beta-cells, a major factor of type 2 diabetes. To give them a boost, eat high-quality carbs, veggies, and fruits. It’s also a smart idea to limit or avoid meat, processed foods, and saturated fat. Focus on fiber and antioxidants, two nutrients that fight oxidative stress and protect the pancreas.10
2. Stay Physically Active
After gestational diabetes, the value of exercise skyrockets. Women with the condition are often less fit, a factor that contributes to type 2 diabetes. However, exercising will change that, so make it a priority. Of course, your body needs time to heal after childbirth. Start with gentle exercise such as walking and increase your activity over time.11
3. Get Regular Check-Ups
Your baby isn’t the only one who needs routine check-ups. To keep tabs on your blood glucose, visit the doctor for regular blood tests. Any sign of prediabetes can be taken care of early on.
Breastfeeding may help reduce the effects of type 2 diabetes, but that is not an end-all solution. Make sure you remain active and eat right to live a happy, healthy life with your newborn.
|↑1||Gestational Diabetes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑2||Gestational Diabetes (GDM). U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑3||Gestational Diabetes: A Guide For Pregnant Women. U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑4||Your Guide to Breastfeeding. Women’s Health.|
|↑5||Breastfeeding Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs). Centers for Disease Control.|
|↑6||Gestational Diabetes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑7||Breastfeeding, S. “o.(2012). Breastfeeding and the use of human milk.” Pediatrics 129, no. 3: e827.|
|↑8||Gunderson, Erica P., Shanta R. Hurston, Xian Ning, Joan C. Lo, Yvonne Crites, David Walton, Kathryn G. Dewey et al. “Lactation and Progression to Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus After Gestational Diabetes MellitusA Prospective Cohort StudyLactation and Incidence of Diabetes After GDM.” Annals of internal medicine 163, no. 12 (2015): 889-898.|
|↑9||Gunderson, Erica P. “Breastfeeding after gestational diabetes pregnancy.” Diabetes Care 30, no. Supplement 2 (2007): S161-S168.|
|↑10||Tobias, Deirdre K., Frank B. Hu, Jorge Chavarro, Bernard Rosner, Dariush Mozaffarian, and Cuilin Zhang. “Healthful dietary patterns and type 2 diabetes mellitus risk among women with a history of gestational diabetes mellitus.” Archives of internal medicine 172, no. 20 (2012): 1566-1572.|
|↑11||Gar, C., M. Rottenkolber, H. Grallert, F. Banning, I. Freibothe, V. Sacco, C. Wichmann et al. “Physical fitness and plasma leptin in women with recent gestational diabetes.” PloS one 12, no. 6 (2017): e0179128.|