Diabetic mums should breastfeed their babies if they want to reduce the chances of their child becoming obese.
Previous studies have proven that children of diabetic pregnancies are more likely to become overweight.
But new research from the U.S. shows breastfeeding for at least six months can help reduce the risk.
In a study by the Colorado School of Public Health, researchers tracked 94 children of diabetic pregnancies and 399 of non-diabetic pregnancies from birth to age 13.
They assessed the influence of breastfeeding on the growth of body mass index (BMI), an indicator of childhood obesity.
Tessa Crume, who led the study, said children of diabetic pregnancies who were breast-fed had a slower BMI growth as they grew older than those who nursed less than six months. A similar pattern emerged for children of non-diabetic pregnancies.
According to Crume, researchers know that children exposed to diabetes or obesity in the womb are at higher risk for childhood obesity and metabolic diseases. Now they know there is a second critical opportunity to reduce BMI growth by encouraging mothers to breastfeed for at least six months, the time recommended by the Academy of Pediatrics.
"Breast-feeding support represents an important clinical and public health strategy to reduce the risk of childhood obesity," said Crume. She hopes the research will further encourage mothers to breastfeed, especially those who experienced a diabetic pregnancy.
"We can work with paediatricians, obstetricians and the public health community to give these women targeted support immediately following birth," she said.
The research appears in the latest edition of the International Journal of Obesity.