That Sugar Movement


Breastfeeding and post-pregnancy Type 2 diabetes

160901_TSF_BlogHero_02Breastfeeding has a whole raft of benefits for the bub. It is a time to bond, nourish, and grow. And the microbiome of mama and her breast milk can set up bub with the good bugs it needs for immune and metabolic function.1

However, it seems that breastfeeding may also benefit the mum who has experienced gestational diabetes by reducing risk for developing type 2 diabetes post-partum.

We have discussed gestational diabetes before, looking at how the diet can influence risk of developing the condition. Specifically, diets high in heavily refined and processed foods, including excess added sugars, potentiate risk.

Gestational diabetes is a temporary condition affecting anywhere between 2-14% of women, where a mother experiences insulin resistance during pregnancy. The condition increases risk for high blood pressure throughout pregnancy, pre-eclampsia, and a bigger baby to birth, as well as developing type 2 diabetes post-partum.

Not fun.

However, it seems that breastfeeding may have a role to play in reducing the risk for mothers developing of type 2 diabetes following birth!

Researchers at the Institute of Diabetes Research at the Helmholtz Zentrum München, Germany, have found that breastfeeding for at least 3 months provides mum a protective effect from developing type 2 diabetes for up to 15 years. Wow!2

Considering women who have experienced gestational diabetes are at increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes within 10 years of giving birth (1 in 2 women in Germany, according to the study authors), this is pretty great news.

197 mothers with previously diagnosed gestational diabetes were assessed 3.5 years on average after birth.3 Following a glucose challenge test, 156 metabolites were obtained for assessment.

Researchers found that less metabolites associated with insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes – including phosphatidylcholines and branched-chain amino acids – were found in those breastfeeding for 3 or more months.4-6

The bub can also experience negative health effects if mum’s gestational diabetes is left unmanaged, including obesity and developing type 2 diabetes themselves.

But, the good news is observational research has made the correlation for reduced incidence of type 2 diabetes for those who were breast fed as infants.7 So, it seems that breastfeeding may be a simple and cost-effective intervention providing benefit to both mum and bub!

We are a fan of breastfeeding here at That Sugar, but understand it doesn’t happen easily for everyone. Please, do not feel disheartened if this is something proving difficult for you. Consult with your healthcare practitioner for referrals or advice particular to your situation.

For more information on breastfeeding resources and support networks, check out the Bosom Buddies Resources page.

By Angela Johnson (BHSC Nut. Med.)



  1. O’Sullivan, A, Farver, M, & Smilowitz, JT 2015, ‘The influence of early infant-feeding practices on the intestinal microbiome and body composition in infants’, Nutrition and Metabolic Insights, vol. 8, no. 1.
  2. Ziegler, A, Wallner, M, Kaiser, I, Rossbauer, M, Harsunen, MH, Lachmann, L, Maier, J, Winkler, C, & Hummel, S 2012, ‘Long-term protective effect of lactation on the development of type 2 diabetes in women with recent gestational diabetes mellitus’, Diabetes, vol. 61, no. 12, pp. 3167-3171.
  3. Much, D et al. 2016, ‘Lactation is Associated with Altered Metabolomic Signatures in Women with Gestational Diabetes’, Diabetologia, [Epub ahead of print].
  4. Barber, MN, Risis, S, Yang, C, Meikle, PJ, Staples, M, Febbraio, MA, & Bruce, CR 2012, ‘Plasma lysophosphatidylcholine levels are reduced in obesity and type 2 diabetes’, Plos One, vol. 7, no. 7, p. e41456.
  5. Chen, X, & Yang, W 2015, ‘Branched-chain amino acids and the association with type 2 diabetes’, Journal of Diabetes Investigation, no. 4, p. 369.
  6. Goto-Inoue, N, Yamada, K, Inagaki, A, Furuichi, Y, Ogino, S, Manabe, Y, Setou, M, & Fujii, NL 2013, ‘Lipidomics analysis revealed the phospholipid compositional changes in muscle by chronic exercise and high-fat diet’, Scientific Reports, vol. 3, p. 3267.
  7. Owen, CG, Martin, RM, Whincup, PH, Smith, GD, & Cook, DG 2006, ‘Does breastfeeding influence risk of type 2 diabetes in later life? A quantitative analysis of published evidence’, The American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 84, no. 5, pp. 1043-1054.


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