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Breast-feeding good for mother's heart

When women breast-feed their infants for a year, there are lasting health benefits for both the mother and the infant.

Breast-feeding good for mother

When women breast-feed their infants for a year, there are lasting health benefits for both the mother and the infant. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for women in developed nations and it is important to identify behaviours that modify this risk. It is known that breast feeding increases a mother's caloric expenditure and lactating mothers lose more weight following delivery than do women who do not breast-feed, but its impact on future risk of cardiovascular disease is unclear. The goal of this study was to examine the effect of lactation on subsequent risk of obesity, hypertension, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, and cardiovascular disease among postmenopausal women. Researchers from United States studied 139,681 postmenopausal women who breast-fed their infants to examine the relationship between number of months women lactated and postmenopausal risk factors for heart disease. The data regarding their age, parity, race, education, income and age at menopause was collected, along with lifestyle and family history variables including body mass index, hypertension and self-reported diabetes. The beneficial effect of breast-feeding on cardiovascular risk factors was found to be dose-dependent - the longer the duration of breast-feeding, the greater the benefits - even after adjusting for social, demographic and lifestyle variables, family history, and body weight. Women with a lifetime history of more than 12 months of breast-feeding were significantly less likely than women who never breast-fed to have high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart disease. Experts speculate that breast-feeding does more than simply reduce a woman's fat stores and propose that the effects on cardiovascular risk profiles may be due to hormonal effects, such as those of oxytocin, of breast-feeding. These benefits, however, wane as women reach 70 years of age and the time since a woman lactated increases. The researchers concluded that increased duration of breast-feeding, besides being good for the baby, also benefits mothers' health and current recommendations that women breast-feed their infants for the first year of life should be endorsed for the benefit of both maternal and child health.
Obstetrics and Gynecology
May 2009
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