The effect of breastfeeding on postpartum glucose tolerance and lipid profiles in women with gestational diabetes mellitus

Alexis Shub, Manisha Miranda, Harry M Georgiou, Elizabeth A McCarthy, Martha Lappas
International Breastfeeding Journal 2019, 14: 46

Background: We aimed to investigate the association of breastfeeding on postpartum glucose levels and lipid profiles in women diagnosed with gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) and women without GDM.

Methods: We performed a secondary analysis of a cohort study of 243 women, 159 women with GDM and 84 normally glucose tolerant women between 2012 and 2017. At approximately 6-10 weeks postpartum, we measured fasting blood glucose and plasma lipid levels. Breastfeeding behaviour was self-defined as exclusive breastfeeding or not exclusive breastfeeding.

Results: The mean (SD) glucose in the group of women who breastfed exclusively was 4.6 (0.49) mmol/L, compared to 4.9 (0.58) mmol/L (95% CI 0.45, 0.15, p  <  0.001) among women who did not exclusively breastfeed. Among women with GDM, the reduction in fasting glucose in women who were breastfeeding was 0.22 mmol/L (95% CI 0.39, 0.05, p  = 0.004), and in women who were not GDM, the reduction was 0.14 mmol/L (95% CI 0.37, 0.09, p  = 0.24,). After adjustment for GDM status in pregnancy, maternal body mass index (BMI), maternal age and ethnicity, and exclusive breastfeeding was associated with a decreased fasting glucose of 0.19 (95% CI 0.318, 0.061, p  = 0.004). After similar adjustment, there was no significant difference in triglycerides, high density lipoprotein cholesterol or low-density lipoprotein cholesterol between women who were breastfeeding and women who were not breastfeeding.

Conclusions: Breastfeeding is associated with a reduction in fasting glucose levels postpartum, but not maternal lipid profile. Breastfeeding may play a role in reducing glucose intolerance in women who have had GDM.

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