Heart benefits of Breastfeeding for mothers
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The benefits of breastfeeding a child are well-established. Children who are breastfed experience lower rates of respiratory disease and a lower risk of death from infectious diseases compared to non-breastfed children. The protection comes from maternal antibodies in a fluid called colostrum, which is produced before breast milk and provides early passive immunity. Colostrum protects from infections (colds, middle ear infections, bowel disease) and other diseases (SIDS, allergies, diabetes) that can affect newborns.

There are many other scientifically established benefits that comes from breast milk. Breast milk is the optimal nutrition source for a developing infant. The composition of a mother's breast milk changes with the growing child to support changing nutritional needs. Breast milk supports weight gain and brain development, which are key in the developing infant. In these times of supply chain shortages with infant formula, breast milk is a major bonus as the mom is the sole provider!

Breastfeeding also provides well-documented benefits to the mother, including helping the uterus contract back to normal size, preventing postpartum depression and delaying menstruation and ovulation. Breastfeeding also helps mothers lose the weight gained during pregnancy through enhanced fat burning. Breastfeeding is linked to lower levels of cancer, high blood pressure, arthritis and type 2 diabetes.

In a recent study, breastfeeding was linked to a reduction in cardiovascular disease in mothers. In this large study in the Journal of the American Heart Association, health records from 1986 to 2009 were collectively examined for over 1 million women from eight different studies including those in Japan, the U.S., Norway, China and Australia. More than 80% of the women had breastfed one or more babies. The researchers examined the impact of breastfeeding on cardiovascular health.

The long-term effects on the women who had breastfed were astounding. Compared to women who had never breastfed, women who breastfed babies had an 11% reduced risk of developing cardiovascular disease. More specifically, they were 14% less likely to experience coronary heart disease. They also showed a 12% reduction in strokes and were overall 17% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease. The reduction in the risk from cardiovascular disease was especially noted in those who breastfed for 12 months or more. Also notable was that the risk of cardiovascular disease among breastfeeding women did not vary by age or by how many pregnancies they had. The results showed that mothers significantly benefit from breastfeeding in terms of cardiovascular health.

The benefits of breastfeeding babies have been promoted for many years, yet in the U.S. only about 25% of infants are breastfed. The obvious health benefits to mothers should be promoted as the U.S. still has the highest maternal death rate in the developed world. The leading cause of death here is cardiovascular disease! Estimates are that as many as 67% of these deaths are likely preventable.

We need to further promote the health benefits of breastfeeding on the health of newborns and their mothers. This a public health issue that would save the lives of women.

For more information…

Breastfeeding reduces mothers' cardiovascular disease risk
Women who breastfed were less likely to develop heart disease or a stroke, or die from cardiovascular disease than women who did not breastfeed, according to a meta-analysis published today in a pregnancy spotlight issue of the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA), an open access, peer-reviewed journal of the American Heart Association...

Breastfeeding Is Associated With a Reduced Maternal Cardiovascular Risk: Systematic Review and MetaAnalysis Involving Data From 8 Studies and 1,192,700 Parous Women
Breastfeeding has been robustly linked to reduced maternal risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and type 2 diabetes. We herein systematically reviewed the published evidence on the association of breastfeeding with maternal risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) outcomes...