By Melissa Portunato MPH, IBCLC, RLC
You’ve likely heard all the amazing benefits of breastfeeding for your baby and how it can give them the very best start at life. Less risk of allergies, asthma, ear infections, obesity, a strengthened immune system, and so much more. But did you know that the benefits of breastfeeding are not only for your nursling but for you too? Read on to learn more!
Reduces Risk of Breast and Uterine Cancer
Breastfeeding can help shed cells with potential DNA damage which can reduce the chances of pre and post menopausal breast cancer. Estrogen can promote cancer cell growth and since breastfeeding delays ovulation this means less lifetime exposure, significantly reducing the risk of ovarian cancer. Studies tell us the longer you breastfeed for, the more protection you will have against both breast and ovarian cancer so nurse on mamas! It’s good for you!
Less Osteoporosis With Age
Osteoporosis is a disease that weakens the bones and can make fractures sudden and easier to happen. Women are four times more likely to suffer from osteoporosis. By age 50, 1 out of 2 women will break a bone due to the disease. It’s known that while a mother is breastfeeding her bone density will be reduced by up 10% because ovulation is delayed. But when menstruation once again returns, her bones will regain strength. A review of 911 articles relating to breastfeeding and osteoporosis calculated a 0.9% reduction of any fracture from osteoporosis for each month of breastfeeding. More specifically, there is a 1.2% decreased risk of hip fracture for every month of breastfeeding! Breastfeeding can help keep mamas bones healthy and strong!
Less Chance Type 2 Diabetes
A 30-year study published in 2018 showed the effects breastfeeding can have on diabetes incidence in women of child-bearing age. The study concluded breastfeeding for 1 year can lower your risk of type 2 diabetes from as much as 47%. But how does that all work? Lactation results in lower circulating glucose levels, which in turn lowers insulin secretion. Prolactin (milk making hormone) has also been linked to preserving the function of pancreatic cells. In conclusion, the duration of breastfeeding shows an independent relationship to lower incidence of diabetes, even when other risk factors are considered.
Less Hypertension Decreases Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is often referred to as the silent killer because it can be present with no known symptoms. Alison Stuebe, a lead researcher at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill has studied the correlation between high blood pressure and breastfeeding mothers and stated, “Women who never breastfed were more likely to develop hypertension than women who exclusively breastfed their first child for six months or more.” Stuebe and her team analyzed the correlation between breastfeeding and later risk of high blood pressure among 56,000 U.S. women that had at least one baby. Though, the study does not indicate breastfeeding has a direct correlation with healthier blood pressure, it did depict the odds for developing high blood pressure were 22 percent higher for women who did not breastfeed their first child, versus women who exclusively breastfed for six months. The best way to protect yourself is to know the risks associated with high blood pressure and routine monitoring with your medical practitioner.
In general, experts recommend that mamas and babies breastfeed exclusively for the first six months to receive the optimal benefits, but the longer a mama can breastfeed for the better. Breastfeeding is a mutually exclusive relationship and there is no need to stop if mom and baby are happy and desire to continue. Breastfeeding provides overall health benefits for mom and baby that will last a lifetime.
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Gunderson, Erica P., et al. “Lactation and Progression to Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus After Gestational Diabetes Mellitus.” Annals of Internal Medicine, vol. 163, no. 12, 15 Dec. 2015, pp. 889–898., doi:10.7326/m15-0807.
American Journal of Epidemiology, Volume 174, Issue 10, 15 November 2011, Pages 1147–1158, https://doi.org/10.1093/aje/kwr227 Published: 12 October 2011