Breastfeeding is associated with a 30% reduction in risk of a mother developing type 2 diabetes, according to a new analysis.
This statistic applied for women who breastfed for 12 months or more. The comparison group were mothers that breastfed for less than 12 months. A 13% reduction in risk of hypertension (high blood pressure) was also found to be associated with a year or more of breastfeeding.
A US team of researchers reviewed a total of nine research studies. Four of them involved data taken from trials that had looked at the link between lactation and diabetes among 206,000 women. The remaining five studies involved around 225,000 women and reviewed the association between lactation and high blood pressure.
The authors of the study note that lactation involves producing 500 calories that is then consumed by the infant. This output of calories on breastfeeding may help mothers to recover their pre-pregnancy metabolism.
Dr Haitham Ahmed, senior author of the study and chair of cardiology at AdvantageCare Physicians in Brooklyn, New York, said: “In many ways it can be a reset to the adverse metabolic profile in pregnancy.
“Many women are not able to breastfeed, but for those who are, that may be an excellent way to improve long term cardiovascular and metabolic health of new mothers.”
In the UK, feeding on breast milk alone is recommended for at least the first six months of an infant’s life.
The research team noted that the study had limitations, including the fact that none of the studies were ran as randomised clinical trials.
The researchers concluded: “This study suggests that education about the benefits of breastfeeding for prevention of diabetes and hypertension in women is a low-risk intervention that can be easily included in daily practice and may have a positive impact on cardiovascular outcomes in mothers.”
The findings have been published in the JAMA Network Open journal.