There is a strong body of evidence that supports the benefit of breastfeeding for baby and mom.
Breast milk gives babies just the right amounts of essential nutrients, proteins, antibodies, and fats to help both the baby’s body and brain develop. Breastfed babies have fewer allergies, ear infections, and respiratory problems compared to those who are not breastfed.
For mothers, breastfeeding can help when it comes to losing that unwanted pregnancy weight. It also lowers their risk of certain cancers, such as breast and ovarian. Now, a new study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association reported that breastfeeding may lower a mother’s risk of heart disease and stroke, too.
Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of deaths globally. Coronary heart disease, in particular, accounted for more than 8 million deaths in 2015. Strokes are the second highest cause of deaths, taking the lives of over 6 million people worldwide in 2015.
The study performed by researchers and the China Kadoorie Biobank Collaboration Group involved more than 300,000 women between the ages of 30 and 79. The women from all across China provided information about how many children they had, whether or not they breastfed, and for how long.
During the study, researchers found that the moms who had breastfed were about 10 percent less likely to have a stroke or develop heart disease, compared to the mothers who never breastfed.
Another finding showed that women who put off the bottle for at least two years lowered their risk of heart disease by 18 percent. They reduced their stroke risk by the same amount.
The researchers even adjusted for factors that could have influenced heart events, such as blood pressure, cholesterol levels, smoking, physical activity, and obesity. The effects of breastfeeding remained just as strong.
Their findings, however, don’t suggest that if women don’t breastfeed they will definitely develop heart problems.
Many researchers say that breastfeeding may help restore a woman's fat clearing systems after the birth.
“Although we cannot establish the causal effects, the health benefits to the mother from breastfeeding may be explained by a faster 'reset' of the mother's metabolism after pregnancy," said Dr. Sanne Peters, co-author of the study and research fellow at Oxford University, according to The Telegraph.
"The findings should encourage more widespread breastfeeding for the benefit of the mother as well as the child," noted Dr. Zhengming Chen, professor of Epidemiology at Oxford University.
Chen also stated, "The study provides support for the World Health Organization's recommendation that mothers should breastfeed their babies exclusively for their first six months of life."
Banner/thumbnail image credit: Flickr, UNICEF/Ukraine/2015/A.Krepkih