The benefits of breastfeeding for babies are well-established by science, but an increasing body of research shows that babies are not the only ones reaping rewards. Moms, too, may be at less risk of several diseases and health conditions, including an aggressive form of breast cancer and gestational diabetes.
Breastfeeding requires work and diligence, and it comes at a time when moms are exhausted and spent. That makes it tempting to call it quits when the going gets tough, even when you have good intentions. But the payoff is becoming harder to ignore.
Your baby’s health is a great incentive. According to the World Health Organization, babies who are breastfed have fewer and less serious illnesses, such as SIDS, childhood cancers and diabetes when compared to babies who were not breastfed. Breastfed babies are also less likely to be obese and have type-II diabetes as adolescents and adults.
But as if that’s not enough, a massive review of research on the benefits of breastfeeding found that it reduces mothers’ risk for type-II diabetes and breast and ovarian cancer.
Newer research shows that breastfeeding reduced the risk of a particularly potent type of breast cancer, called hormone receptor negative tumors, by up to 20 percent. These tumors are more common in African-American women and younger women.
Additionally, breastfeeding’s benefit is not limited to preventing cancer. Gestational diabetes is often referred to as pregnancy-related diabetes and for most women it is temporary. But if you develop gestational diabetes your risk of developing diabetes long-term is seven times higher.
A recent study of moms who developed gestational diabetes found that those who breast fed cut their risk of developing type-II diabetes in half. And those who breast fed for more than 10 months cut their risk by 60 percent.
“As with infants, breastfeeding can provide both short and long-term health benefits for mothers,” says Ann Lewis, a Registered Dietician with Saint Joseph Hospital.
Lewis notes that in the short-term, moms who breastfeed have a quicker recovery from childbirth, increased bonding with their baby, and increased weight loss. And while it might not be the first thing that comes to mind, breastfeeding can give your financial health a little boost, as well.
“Economic benefits can be conservatively estimated at $1,000 per year due to the cost savings on formula purchase,” says Lewis. “It’s a win-win for mom and baby all the way around!”