Breastfeeding and Benefits for Mums

Most mums are aware that breastfeeding offers benefit to their babies. This is often the main motivator for continuing to feed despite many challenges. But did you know that breastfeeding is good for mums too?

Heart Disease Reduction

A new study from Australia was published earlier this year outlining emerging evidence that breastfeeding improves cardiovascular health for women in the long term.[1]The best thing about this study is that it was one of the first to control for many of the other risk factors in cardiovascular disease (CVD) such as smoking, obesity, alcohol, nutrition, exercise, socio-economic background, hypertension, diabetes, and family history.

And what did it show? For those women aged over 45 who had ever breastfed, they had a 14% lower risk of being admitted to hospital for CVD and a 34% lower risk of dying from CVD than those who had never breastfed. These statistics were even better for those mothers who breastfed each child for up to 12 months, indicating that the longer you breastfeed for, the better protection for your heart. This is great news for breastfeeding mummas as CVD is the second biggest killer of women in Australia (behind dementia).[2]

Cancer Reduction

What about cancer prevention? Breastfeeding has been linked to a reduction in ovarian cancers, and to a lesser extent, breast cancer and endometrial cancer. The American Institute for Cancer Research published their summary of evidence of breast cancer prevention in 2017.[3]This showed a statistically significant 2% decrease risk of breast cancer for every 5 months of breastfeeding. UNICEF state that if 16% more mothers breastfed for 6 months, it will reduce the prevalence of breast cancer by 1.6% per year.[4]For ovarian cancer the benefit of breastfeeding is even greater, with those that breastfeed for any length of time 30% less likely to experience the disease, and the longer you feed for, the better.[5]

The Power of Hormones

Thanks to the calming effect of oxytocin and prolactin (our breastfeeding hormones), women who breastfeed are less likely to feel stressed or suffer from postnatal depression. Cortisol (our stress hormone) levels are lower in those mothers who are breastfeeding, adding another mechanism for improved mental health in those mothers who breastfeed.[6]

What Else?

Turns out breastfeeding helps to reduce blood pressure, decreases the risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes and metabolic syndrome as well as lowering the chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis and Rheumatoid Arthritis.[7]

So, now you have a selfish motivation to continue to breastfeed – it’s good for your health too!

 

[1]Nguyen et al. “Breastfeeding and Cardiovascular Disease Hospitalisation and Mortality in Parous Women: Evidence from a large Australian Cohort Study”. Journal of the American Heart Association. 2019;8. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/JAHA.118.011056

[2]Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. “Deaths in Australia”. https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/life-expectancy-death/deaths-in-australia/contents/leading-causes-of-death

[3]World Cancer Research Fund; American Institute for Cancer Research. “Continuous Update Project: Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Breast Cancer”. 2017. https://www.wcrf.org/sites/default/files/Breast-Cancer-2017-Report.pdf

[4]Del Campio et al “Breastfeeding and Benefits of Lactation for Women’s Health”. Rev Bras Ginecol Obstet; 2018: Vol 40, No 6. https://www.thieme-connect.com/products/ejournals/pdf/10.1055/s-0038-1657766.pdf

[5]Da-Peng Li et al. “Breastfeeding and Ovarian Cancer Risk: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of 40 Epidemiological Studies”. 2014.http://journal.waocp.org/article_29342_2a445e92488a6e89cc5bff6fc645f5e0.pdf

[6]Del Campio et al “Breastfeeding and Benefits of Lactation for Women’s Health”. Rev Bras Ginecol Obstet; 2018: Vol 40, No 6. https://www.thieme-connect.com/products/ejournals/pdf/10.1055/s-0038-1657766.pdf

[7]Del Campio et al “Breastfeeding and Benefits of Lactation for Women’s Health”. Rev Bras Ginecol Obstet; 2018: Vol 40, No 6. https://www.thieme-connect.com/products/ejournals/pdf/10.1055/s-0038-1657766.pdf

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