As for advantages of breastfeeding, there are many. One less frequently discussed is that of breast cancer prevention. Choosing to breastfeed can be a weighted decision if you have limited experience or knowledge of it. In addition, breastfeeding in the United States is not statistically successful among most women due to various obstacles in their day to day lives. Most do know how breastfeeding can provide a healthy start for a baby, but their awareness on how it can benefit the mother is less discussed. 

According to MD Anderson, “research shows mothers who breastfeed lower their risk of pre- and post- menopausal breast cancer.” It is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization to breastfeed for a minimum of six months before introducing other forms of liquid to the baby to benefit both mother and baby. In addition to weight loss, providing antibodies to the baby through breastmilk, there is also a delay for most women in their menstrual cycles due to hormones. 

This can reduce a woman’s exposure to the hormones detected to lead to most cancers of the breast and reproductive systems of most women. In addition to breastfeeding being preventative to breast cancer, it can also lower a woman’s risk to ovarian cancer. 

MD Anderson’s research on this topic indicates estrogen being the primary hormone to promote breast cancer cell growth. With the decision to breastfeed, the hormonal changes of estrogen are affected at a decreasing rate which limits a woman’s exposure. As well as this decreasing level of a particular cancer cell promotion, a woman’s body sheds breast tissue during the life of the breastfeeding relationship. The shedding which occurs at this time “can help remove cells with potential DNA damage”, helping to reduce chances of developing breast cancer. 

Although the minimal recommendation to breastfeed is six months, the worldwide average of a breastfeeding relationship is that of six years. If women breastfeed longer than a year, it increases their protection that much more due to the decrease in hormones mentioned above. Some women will continue to experience hormonal fluctuation depending on their biological make up, but the benefits of breastfeeding are still present. 

According the there are several reasons why breastfeeding protects breast health:

• Making milk 24/7 limits breast cells’ ability to misbehave

• Most women have fewer menstrual cycles when they’re breastfeeding resulting in lower estrogen levels

• Many women tend to eat more nutritious foods and follow their healthiest lifestyles while breastfeeding by limiting smoking and alcohol use

If breastfeeding is an option for you, you may want to consider it. Besides possibly lowering your breast cancer risk, breastfeeding gives your child antibodies through the breast milk that can protect him/her from bacterial and viral infections.

For more information, please contact the local Lactation Consultant at Stillwater Medical Center at 405-372-1480.

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