Now that one of my children has had type 1 diabetes for a year and a half, I sometimes wonder if I should volunteer with one of the diabetes organizations. However, my heart belongs to breastfeeding encouragement and support :) I do have a nine month old daughter and so the following information is as much for my readers as for me and my daughter, who is slightly more at risk for type 1 diabetes due to having a brother with the disease.
Although I breastfed my son for three years and he still was diagnosed with diabetes, the research shows that breastfeeding does reduce the chances your children will get this disease. Here is a review study from Sept. 2012 that concluded that a short duration of breastfeeding or a total lack of breastfeeding is a risk factor for type 1 diabetes: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22946851
Some studies implicate a connection between early introduction of cow's milk to a baby and the development of type 1 diabetes while others do not. However, The AAP does recommend waiting until one year of age before introducing cow's milk. La Leche League International also recommends waiting until one year to introduce all dairy products. Those first months after the introduction of solids at 6+ months are really just a time of trying out new tastes and textures. Breastfeeding still remains the main source of nutrition for the first year.
Consumption of gluten containing foods before three months of age has also been shown to increase the risk of type 1 diabetes: http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=197391
I am on a mission (should I choose to accept it - and I do!) to encourage breastfeeding women and to educate about ways to reduce type 1 diabetes incidence in my baby daughter and in other children.
Stay tuned...Breastfeeding and the Mother Who has Type 1 Diabetes
Written by Gina Peterson, BS, IBCLC