WEDNESDAY, Feb. 26, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Longer duration of lactation is associated with a lower risk for type 2 diabetes among women with a history of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), according to a study published online Feb. 10 in Diabetes Care.

Sylvia H. Ley, Ph.D., R.D., from the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans, and colleagues used data from 4,372 women with a history of GDM participating in the Nurses’ Health Study II to assess incident type 2 diabetes over 25 years of follow-up. Questionnaires were used to calculate lactation history and duration.

There were 873 incident cases of type 2 diabetes identified. The researchers found that after adjusting for age, ethnicity, family history of diabetes, parity, age at first birth, smoking, diet quality, physical activity, and prepregnancy body mass index, longer duration of lactation was associated with a lower risk for type 2 diabetes for total lactation up to six months (hazard ratio [HR], 1.05; 95 percent confidence interval [CI], 0.83 to 1.34), six to 12 months (HR, 0.91; 95 percent CI, 0.72 to 1.16), 12 to 24 months (HR, 0.85; 95 percent CI, 0.67 to 1.06), and >24 months (HR, 0.73; 95 percent CI, 0.57 to 0.93) compared with not breastfeeding for a month (P-trend = 0.003) and exclusive breastfeeding (P-trend = 0.002). There was also an association seen between longer duration of lactation and lower hemoglobin A1c, fasting plasma insulin, and C-peptide concentrations among women without type 2 diabetes at follow-up (all adjusted P-trend ≤ 0.04).

“Prolonged breastfeeding should be encouraged during pregnancy, especially among women with GDM who are at increased risk for experiencing breastfeeding challenges in early postpartum in addition to being at higher risk for type 2 diabetes progression later in life,” the authors write.

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