Cumulative Lactation and Clinical Metabolic Outcomes at Mid-Life among Women with a History of Gestational Diabetes

Pandora L. Wander, Stefania N. Hinkle, Daniel A. Enquobahrie, Jing Wu, Sylvia H. Ley, Louise G. Grunnet, Jorge E. Chavarro, Mengying Li, Anne A Bjerregaard, Aiyi Liu, Peter Damm, Seth Sherman, Shristi Rawal, Yeyi Zhu, Liwei Chen, James L. Mills, Frank B. Hy, Allan Vaag, Sjúrður Fróði Olsen, Cuilin Zhang

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Lactation is associated with a lower risk of subsequent cardiometabolic disease among parous women; however, the underlying mechanisms are unknown. Further, the potential protective effects of lactation on cardiometabolic risk markers at mid-life among high-risk women with past gestational diabetes (GDM) are not established. Using data from the Diabetes & Women’s Health Study (2012-2014; n = 577), a longitudinal cohort of women with past GDM from the Danish National Birth Cohort (1996-2002), we assessed associations of cumulative lactation duration (none, < 6 months, 6-12 months, ≥ 12-24 months, and ≥ 24 months) with clinical metabolic outcomes (including type 2 diabetes [T2D], prediabetes, and obesity) and cardiometabolic biomarkers (including biomarkers of glucose/insulin metabolism, fasting lipids, inflammation, and anthropometrics) 9-16 years after enrollment when women were at mid-life. At follow-up, women were 43.9 years old (SD 4.6) with a BMI of 28.7 kg/m2 (IQR 24.6, 33.0); 28.6% of participants had T2D, 39.7% had prediabetes, and 41.2% had obesity. Relative risks (95% CI) of T2D for 0-6, 6-12, 12-24, and ≥ 24 months of cumulative lactation duration compared to none were 0.94 (0.62,1.44), 0.88 (0.59,1.32), 0.73 (0.46,1.17), and 0.71 (0.40,1.27), respectively. Cumulative lactation duration was not significantly associated with any other clinical outcome or continuous biomarker. In this high-risk cohort of middle-aged women with past GDM, T2D, prediabetes, and obesity were common at follow-up, but not associated with history of cumulative lactation duration 9-16 years after the index pregnancy. Further studies in diverse populations among women at mid-age are needed to understand associations of breastfeeding with T2D.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 3 Feb 2022


  • Biomarkers
  • Breastfeeding
  • Diabetes
  • Lactation
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Women


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