The benefits of breastfeeding for babies have been known for some time. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, Breastfeeding decreases the possibility that your baby will get a variety of infectious diseases, ear infections, diarrhea, and even reduces the occurrence of SIDS. But baby isn’t the only one reaping the benefits.
A new study released by the University of Pittsburgh shows that women who breastfed are at lower risk than mothers who have not for developing high blood pressure, diabetes and cardiovascular disease decades later, when they are in menopause. The study was published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. Researchers looked at data from nearly 140,000 women who enrolled in the Women’s Health Initiative, a long-term national study of postmenopausal women.
According to doctors, the longer a women breastfed the greater the benefits. Women who breast-fed for more than a year in their entire lifetimes were almost 10 percent less likely than those who had never breast-fed to have had a heart attack or a stroke in their postmenopausal years. They were also less likely to have diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol.
But even just a short duration of breastfeeding proved to be beneficial to the mother. The study shows that post-menopausal women who breast-fed for even just one month had lower rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, although the risk of heart disease after such limited breast-feeding was comparable to that among mothers who never breast-fed.
However, some experts take this news with a grain of salt. They say while the study shows an association between breast-feeding and health benefits, there was not necessarily a causal relationship. Women who breast-feed may simply lead more healthful lives than those who do not. Dr. Nieca Goldberg is the medical director of the NYU women’s Heart Center. She’s quoted as saying that the new analysis might not have been able to account for all the differences between the two groups.
Additionally, Dr. Goldberg theorizes that oxytocin may play a role. Oxytocin is a hormone crucial to milk production. It’s known to relax blood vessels, and may make them more flexible and resistant to the buildup of plaque.
Breast-feeding is also known to play a role in healing after pregnancy, by causing uterine contractions that help restore the uterus to its original size more quickly. Further, women burn extra calories when making milk, helping them eliminate fat stores accumulated during pregnancy.
Besides heart disease, stroke and diabetes, other studies suggest breastfeeding may also reduce the risk of osteoporosis, Type 2 diabetes, and breast and ovarian cancer.
Adopted from Easy Expression Inc, makers of Essential Hands-Free Pump Support Bra.
Sources for this article include The New York Times and The American Academy of Pediatrics website.