Breastfeeding lowers risk of obesity for children of diabetic pregnancies

Breastfeeding can reduce the risk of childhood obesity in babies of diabetic pregnancies, according to research from the Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Colorado, Denver.

Researchers studied 94 children whose mothers had diabetes during pregnancy and 399 children of non-diabetic pregnancies. They followed the children from birth to age 13 and gathered data on changes in their body mass index (BMI).

Certain BMI changes may indicate a risk of childhood obesity. Also, past research shows that children exposed to diabetes in utero have a higher risk for childhood obesity and metabolic diseases.

“There are critical perinatal periods for defining obesity risk, pregnancy and early infant life,” said Tessa Crume, Ph.D, epidemiologist at the Colorado School of Public Health. “We looked at children exposed to over-nutrition in utero due to a diabetic pregnancy to determine if early life nutrition could alter their risk of childhood obesity.”

Researchers found that children of diabetic pregnancies who were breastfed had a slower BMI growth as they got older than children who breastfed less than six months.

Children of non-diabetic pregnancies had a similar pattern.

The results indicate that encouraging mothers to breastfeed for six months or longer can help normalize BMI growth in these children and reduce the chance of childhood obesity.

“Breastfeeding support represents an important clinical and public health strategy to reduce the risk of childhood obesity,” said Crume. “We can work with pediatricians, obstetricians and the public health community to give these women targeted support immediately following birth.”

A paper on this research study appears in International Journal of Obesity.

Source: University of Colorado, Denver

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