Having a baby opens up an entire new world – a new world of screaming and crying, changing diapers, and above all, breastfeeding. Breast milk has all of the vitamins and nutrients that babies needs in their first six months of life, but the nutritional benefits are not the only benefits of breastfeeding. Breastfeeding not only protects infants from stomach viruses, respiratory illnesses, ear infections, meningitis, SIDS and allergies, but it also protects the mother from type 2 diabetes, postpartum depression and ovarian and breast cancers.
According to a study published online on April 28th in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, it was found that out of 1,600 women with breast cancer, those who had previously breast-fed their babies had a 30% decrease in breast cancer recurrence. Additionally, those women in the study who had breast-fed their babies also had a 28% less chance of dying from breast cancer, as they get less aggressive forms of the cancer. According to older studies, it has also been shown that women who breast-fed have a 5% less chance overall of developing breast cancer. The benefits of breastfeeding increase with the amount of time a woman breastfeeds – women who breastfeed for approximately two years throughout their lifetime received the greatest benefit.
The reason that breastfeeding appears to be so beneficial in dealing with breast cancer is somewhat unclear, but scientists are certain that breastfeeding reduces the number of menstrual cycles, which lowers the woman’s exposure to the hormones (estrogen and progesterone) that help cancers grow. Breastfeeding also improves the development of ductal cells, which helps protect the breast. The reason may be as simple as this – women who are nursing tend to take better care of themselves by eating healthier food and avoiding cigarettes and alcohol. But whatever the reason is, it is always important to keep these proven benefits in mind when deciding whether or not to breastfeed your baby.