An Australian study reveals that mothers who have given birth, but do not breastfeed have a 50 per cent increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life compared to women who haven't given birth.
Every year of breastfeeding cuts down the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 14 per cent among mothers, said scientists.
The research involving more than 52,000 women randomly chosen from the Australian national universal health insurance database, was conducted by Bette Liu, lead author of the study, form the University of Western Sydney.
The factors the scientists took into consideration during the study include the family histor of type 2 diabetes, the woman's age, body mass index, smoking and alcohol consumption.
The research revealed nearly 89 per cent of women had given birth at least once and 6 per cent had developed type 2 diabetes.
According to Dr Liu, the mother's risk of developing type 2 diabetes is reduced if she breastfeeds her child for three months.
Giving birth to children does increase the risk of women developing diabetes later in life, but our study shows women can reduce the risk by breastfeeding their children, said Dr Liu.
We found that even breastfeeding each child for three months reduces the risks of diabetes for the mother - back to the same as that for women who has never given birth.
While the mechanism working behind the preventative role of breastfeeding is yet uncertain, Dr Liu says it is probable breastfeeding and the hormonal changes it affects may provide improved insulin sensitivity that remains long after childbirth.
However, she says, extensive research is needed to grasp what is actually happening.