New benefits of breastfeeding — for mom
It has long been accepted that breastfeeding is good for babies, but the health benefits for mothers just keep on coming.
Past research showed that breastfeeding helps prevent breast cancer, especially for mothers who maintain the practice past the first year. It also decreases the risk for ovarian cancer and type-2 diabetes.
Now a study, published in August 2018 in Obstetrics & Gynecology, shows breastfeeding also helps women’s hearts.
Researchers recorded the pre-pregnancy cardiovascular risk of 846 women in 1985. Twenty years later, they measured the thickness of the women’s carotid arteries. (The thicker the arteries, the greater the risk for heart disease.)
They discovered that women who breastfed the least had thicker carotid arteries.
Pregnancy makes the cardiovascular system work harder, but the researchers showed that breastfeeding helps restore the mothers’ physiological systems to their pre-pregnancy state.
Heather Lakatos, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant at Cape Cod Hospital, says breastfeeding also restores other parts of a mother’s body back to normal faster as well.
“The hormones that are involved with lactation relax mom and help prevent post-partum depression,” she says. “And they also cause the uterus to cramp so it gets back to that pre-pregnancy state faster.”
Plus you typically burn about 600 calories a day breastfeeding, so weight loss is much quicker.”
And breastfeeding saves you money, Lakatos says. According to a 2010 study from the Journal of Pediatrics, if 90% of families exclusively breastfeed for 6 months, the US would save 13 billion dollars from reduced medical and other costs.
“Breastfeeding babies tend to be healthier, which for employed moms is better because they take less sick time overall and increases productivity,” she says.
As of July 2022, the American Academy of Pediatrics changed their recommended for breastfeeding, recommending and increase in the duration. They now recommend breastfeeding exclusively for about the first 6 months, with complementary foods introduced at about 6 months, and continued breastfeeding for 2 years and beyond.
Breastfeeding helps babies long after they’ve stopped feeding, Lakatos says.
“We know nutritionally there are so many benefits to breastfeeding because it is human milk for a human baby,” Lakatos says. “It’s species-specific. Breastmilk is customized for each individual baby. Breastmilk is a live fluid that is anti-bacterial, anti-viral with immunological components, which only a mother’s body can produce. It protects the baby the entire time that baby is breastfeeding and beyond.”
The first feeding coats the inner lining of the gut, which provides lifelong protection against certain gastrointestinal problems. Breast milk also helps to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, obesity, respiratory illnesses, ear infections and childhood leukemia.
Lakatos says that the number of women unable to breastfeed is a very small minority and Cape Cod Hospital offers many support systems to help young mothers be successful. Our breastfeeding initiation rate is around 90%. All of our staff at the Family Birthplace are extensively trained in current breastfeeding practices and techniques.
Our lactation consultants meet with all new mothers before they leave the hospital to talk about the importance of breastfeeding and help them get started. Once at home, moms can call the hospital’s “Lactation Warm Line” (508-862-7266), to ask questions and get advice. The phone line is open 7 days a week.
New mothers can also come back to the hospital as outpatients to work one-on-one with our lactation consultants, who also leads a weekly breastfeeding support group called “The Breakfast Club,” every Monday from 10 to 11 a.m.
Join the Family Birthplace at Cape Cod Hospital for a special event, hosted by Cape Cod Healthcare, in honor of World Breastfeeding Week.
Learn more, including RSVP details, at the following link: