A mass study published that past Wednesday in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition discovered that exclusively breastfeeding your baby for at least six months could cut your chance of dying from cancer and all other diseases by 17%. This includes an 8% reduction in dying by heart disease alone.
Previous studies on breastfeeding have primarily looked at the affect on the baby or the short term health benefits to the mother, such as weight loss.
"No previous study has investigated the association between breastfeeding and mortality in the mother," lead researcher Anne-Claire Vergnaud said. She added that "failure to breastfeed" related to an increase in premenopausal breast cancer, ovarian cancer and diabetes.
The study also confirmed previous findings on health benefits to the baby from breastfeeding including less likelihood of adult obesity or even being overweight, which reduces risk for seven different types of cancer as well as diabetes.
AICR Director of Research, Susan Higginbotham explains the connection between breastfeeding and longevity, "Physical changes in breast tissue that accompany milk production provide some protection as well." Since breast tissue cells are shed during lactation, the cancer risk is decreased. She adds, "Because cells have potential DNA damage get shed before they can spark the cancer process." Also, longer breastfeeding helps by reducing menstrual cycles and the lifetime exposure to hormones such as estrogen that can increase the risk of breast cancer.
Only 16% of US women exclusively breastfeed their babies for six months and 36% breastfeed exclusively for three months, so many American women are clearly missing the health benefits for themselves and their babies that exclusive breastfeeding has to offer. 47% of women in the U.S. breastfeed the first six months while also supplementing with formula.
Clearly the breast is best not only for your baby and for helping with your pregnancy weight loss, but also for your long-term health, reduced chance of cancer and overall longevity. That’s a powerful reason to breastfeed your baby!