Breastfeeding by diabetic moms cuts obesity risk in babies

By Shayna Brouker • Published: May 2nd, 2011
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Moms-to-be face lots of choices during and after pregnancy: What to name the baby? Natural birth without medication or epidural? And one of the most contentious — breastfeeding or formula feeding?

In the debate on breast versus bottle, chalk up one for “breast is best”: A new study published in the journal Diabetes Care found that breastfeeding for six months or more lessens the chance that babies exposed to diabetes in the womb will become obese when they get older.

Whether they have pregnancy-related diabetes or the type 1 or type 2 form of the diseases, moms with diabetes tend to “overnourish,” or transfer more fatty acids and glucose to their babies in the womb. This can cause them to be born heavier and with more body fat. The study found that babies who were breastfed less than six months tended to have a much higher body mass index and store more fat around their waists — both precursors for diabetes.

But when breastfed more than six months, babies born to diabetic moms were just as healthy as babies with diabetes-free moms.

Everyone loves a chubby baby, but when “baby fat” sticks with kids throughout childhood and into adulthood, it can raise their risk for obesity and not-so-cute conditions like hypertension, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Breastfeeding can benefit mom, too, by helping her recover from gestational diabetes and lowering her risk of developing real diabetes later in life. And the longer, the better — the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding up to a year after birth.

While the gestational form diabetes usually goes away on its own after pregnancy, encouraging an active lifestyle, eating a balanced diet and of course, breastfeeding during the first year, could lower your child’s risk of developing diabetes later on, too.