What are the benefits of breastfeeding for women with gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM)?

Updated: Apr 29, 2020
  • Author: Thomas R Moore, MD; Chief Editor: George T Griffing, MD  more...
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Current evidence indicates that with proper encouragement, sustained breastfeeding is possible for a significant proportion of patients with overt diabetes. In fact, evidence indicates that breast-fed infants have a much lower risk of developing diabetes than those exposed to cow's milk proteins.

Studies of breastfeeding women with diabetes indicate that lactation, even for a short duration, also has a beneficial effect on overall maternal glucose and lipid metabolism. For postpartum women who had gestational diabetes mellitus during their pregnancies, breastfeeding may offer a practical low-cost intervention that helps reduce or delay the risk of subsequent diabetes.

In a longitudinal study comparing breastfeeding habits among women with diabetes and without diabetes, Webster et al reported that diabetic women breastfed at least as commonly and for as long as women without diabetes. At discharge, 63% of diabetic mothers and 78% of mothers without diabetes were breastfeeding. At 8 weeks, the proportions of each were nearly identical (58% and 56%, respectively). At 3 months, 47% percent of mothers with diabetes and 33% mothers without diabetes continued to breastfeed. [102]

A study by Gunderson et al found that a higher intensity of lactation among exclusively or mostly breastfeeding (< 6 oz formula per 24 h) ­mothers improved insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism. This may reduce the future diabetes risk after gestational diabetes. [103]

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