As if you needed yet another reason to breastfeed, new research reported in The New York Times shows further benefits of breastfeeding for mothers. With the numerous benefits breast milk offers babies, the latest studies uphold previous research that breastfeeding improves the health of mothers on many fronts, including physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
Two new studies included in the recent findings support the fact that mothers who breastfeed have a lower risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, arthritis and heart disease. One medical professional who advocates for breastfeeding as a preventative health measure for mothers estimates that breastfeeding may reduce up to 5,000 cases of breast cancer and 14,000 heart attacks a year. These significant statistics should elevate the status of breastfeeding as a critical measure for women’s preventative health, not to mention the babies they are feeding.
Specifically, one new study shows that breastfeeding for even a short period helps reduce the risk of a severe and hard-to-beat type of breast cancer by up to 20%. The research finds that breastfeeding reduces the hormone receptor negative tumors. This means that maturation process undergone by breasts during lactation protects breasts from cancer as milk ducts change and ultimately strengthen breast tissue and cells. African American and younger women are most likely to get this serious type of cancer, which makes targeted promotion of breastfeeding even more valuable.
Additionally, as breasts mature through pregnancy and lactation, the body’s metabolism and cardiovascular system may reset for a healthier and less disease-prone state. This is especially important for women who develop gestational diabetes and are seven times more likely to have type 2 diabetes after giving birth. Lactation helps the body metabolize glucose, supports healthy insulin production and burns through calories and fat. Each of these reduces a woman’s risk of diabetes and may help postpartum weight loss as well.
In a recent study following women with gestational diabetes to track whether they would have long term type 2 diabetes, women who breastfed longer significantly reduced their risk of continuing to have diabetes postpartum. In fact, women who breastfed for at least 10 months reduced their risk of diabetes by 60%. The theory behind this amazing benefit is that lactation naturally lowers blood glucose and therefore the demand on insulin. This affords the body a metabolic break after the extreme demands of pregnancy and perhaps recharges the metabolism for a healthy balance moving forward.
Breast cancer and type 2 diabetes are two serious diseases that greatly affect women. While some risk factors are completely out of our control, this new research sheds a clear light on the benefits of breastfeeding for reducing a mother’s risk of these diseases. With all that we cannot change, doing what we can, such as breastfeeding, is an important preventative health measure well within our control. Breastfeeding – do it for your baby AND do it for you!
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