There's next to no debate that babies benefit from being breastfed. From encouraging Mama-baby bonding to imparting immunities to the littlest ones, breastfeeding has, for years, been regarded as the preferred way to nourish our children.
Now, it seems, there are some proven health benefits for us Mamas, too. This week, an article by Roni Caryn Rabin in the New York Times outlines some exciting new research, linking women's overall health to whether and how long they breastfed. The health benefits, researchers found, stretch into the postmenopausal years for women who breastfed, even for as little as one month of their lives.
The benefits, however, do "increase with duration of past breast-feeding, the study found. Women who had 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."
The study, appearing in May's issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology, was conducted on a very large scale, incorporating data from almost 140,000 women.
Researchers do not suggest, despite compelling data, that breastfeeding is a panacea for women. Dr. Nieca Goldberg, medical director of N.Y.U.'s Women's Heart Center points out that women who breastfeed may also be women who take better care of their health. Additionally, it is documented fact that socioeconomic status has a direct correlation to whether or not women choose to breastfeed. The higher the income bracket and level of education, the more likely women are to breastfeed. And socioeconomic status is also indicative of overall health and access to preventative care.
Nevertheless, the new research highlighted in the New York Times article is compelling. It seems we Mamas have one more reason to make the effort to nurse.
For more information on these topics:
World Health Organization