Breast-feeding not only protects babies from premature deaths and serious diseases but also mothers from breast cancer and heart attacks, among others, suggests a study.
According to the study published in the journal Maternal and Child Nutrition, breast-feeding helps mothers to reduce chances of getting diagnosed with breast cancer, pre-menopausal ovarian cancer, diabetes, hypertension and heart attacks.
For children breast-feeding reduces the risk of diseases like acute lymphoblastic leukemia, ear infections, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, gastrointestinal infections, lower respiratory tract infections, obesity, necrotizing enterocolitis and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
“Breast-feeding has long been framed as a child health issue, however it is clearly a women’s health issue as well. Breast-feeding helps prevent cancer, diabetes and heart disease, yet many women have no idea breast-feeding has any of these benefits,” said Eleanor Bimla Schwarz, Professor at University of California - Davis Health System in the US.
For the study, the research team modelled two groups: One was an “optimal” group in which the majority of moms breastfed as recommended. That group was compared with a “suboptimal” group, in which young mothers breastfed less than the recommended guidelines.
Using existing research and government data, they projected the rates and costs of diseases that breastfeeding is known to reduce, along with the rates and costs of early deaths from those diseases.
“Breast-feeding is far more beneficial in preventing disease and reducing costs than previously estimated,” said Melissa Bartick, Assistant Professor at the Harvard Medical School.