Breastfeeding: It’s good for the heart

Breastfeeding is good for mom and baby. Most of us already know this. However, the more research that comes out, the more we’re learning just how beneficial it is — not only for baby’s health, but mom’s health too.

Breastfeeding is good for mom and baby. Most of us already know this. However, the more research that comes out, the more we’re learning just how beneficial it is — not only for baby’s health, but mom’s health too.

Breast milk is unique to each mother and contains specific nutrients her baby needs. No other food can adequately replace it, not even formula, which is made from cow’s milk. Breast milk is a living, everadapting fluid. Here’s a quick rundown of the health benefits for baby. Children who were breastfed:

  • Are more resistant to disease and infection early in life
  • Are less likely to get diseases like juvenile diabetes, multiple sclerosis, heart disease and cancer before age 15
  • Have fewer ear infections, a major reason infants take antibiotics
  • Have a 75 percent lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
  • Are significantly less likely to become obese

Mothers who breastfeed lose pregnancy weight more easily and have a lower risk for breast and ovarian cancer. They also are less likely to develop osteoporosis. And now studies are showing that women who breastfeed have a lower risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke and diabetes. That’s good news you can take to heart!

“Data suggests breastfeeding cuts a woman’s risk for heart disease well after her child has grown up,” said Elizabeth M. Doyle, M.D., director of lactation services for Norton Healthcare. “And the more children she breastfeeds, the lower the risk drops. If a woman breastfeeds for more than six months during her lifetime, she is less likely to have a heart attack or stroke than a woman who has never breastfed.”

These benefits are showing in women who are reaching the age of menopause, when risk for heart disease typically increases. In fact, heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women. According to a University of Pittsburgh study, a woman who breastfed for more than 12 months in her lifetime is nearly 10 percent less likely to develop heart disease.

“Any amount of breastfeeding is good for a woman’s heart, but more is definitely better,” Dr. Doyle said.

The reduced risk may be linked to a smaller waistline, as breastfeeding burns an extra 200 to 500 calories per day. It’s also believed that breastfeeding can help “reset” the body’s hormones after pregnancy, which may contribute to a healthier weight and account for the reduced risk.

“We know that women with a waist circumference over 31 inches have an increased risk for heart disease. At 34.5 inches, it’s considered a high risk,” Dr. Doyle said.

In one study, postmenopausal women who had never breastfed had higher rates of obesity than the women who had breastfed.

“While we have been encouraging women to breastfeed for the health of their baby, it’s a great thing to be able to tell women it has substantial health benefits for themselves as well,” Dr. Doyle said.


Norton Women’s Care offers two free breastfeeding classes: “Breastfeeding Essentials” and “Breastfeeding: Beyond the Basics.” For class locations and schedule, call (502) 629-1234 or visit Nortonbaby.com.


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