by MMC Board Member Pat Benton, MS RD
Diabetes is a growing problem in the United States. Currently, about 1 in 10 Americans over twenty has diabetes. There are lifestyle choices that may prevent Types 1 and 2 diabetes, including breastfeeding.
A recent statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics explains that infants who are breastfed without any formula or other foods for three months have a 30% lower risk of Type 1 diabetes, which may be partly caused by the cow’s milk proteins in formula. Infants who are breastfed have 40% less risk of Type 2 diabetes. The decreased risk of Type 2 diabetes may be because breastfeeding promotes weight control and feeding control.
When an infant eats from the breast, there is less pressure to eat a specific amount, and the infant learns to eat only to the point of fullness. One study found that infants who were fed by a bottle with formula or breast milk had poorer feeding control and greater weight gain compared to infants fed only from the breast.Current studies show that infants who are breastfed have 15-30% less risk of being obese as adults, and obesity is a risk factor for Type 2 diabetes. Also, the longer an infant is breastfed, the lower the risk of obesity.
Improved feeding control may not have to do only with what the infant eats, but also how the infant eats. Infants who are breastfed are more likely to feed “on demand”, meaning that they signal and are fed when they are hungry. Infants who are bottle fed are more likely to be fed on a schedule, whether they are hungry or not. Also, when parents feed infants from a bottle, they may encourage the infant to finish the bottle. This method may teach the infant to eat past when he or she is full, which could cause extra weight gain later in life.
The benefits of breastfeeding on reducing risk of diabetes, then, come not only from the breast milk itself, but also from avoiding formula and cow’s milk in infancy, and teaching infants to eat only to the point of satisfaction.
If you have questions related to Breastfeeding and diabetes, contact the Michigan State University Extension office in your area or find a Peer Counselor by going to the Breastfeeding Initiative website at: www.bfi.fcs.msue.msu.edu.