An important breastfeeding benefit - for mom

Moms who breastfeed can take comfort in the fact that not only are they giving their baby a great start in life, but they might be helping themselves out, as well. A recent report from the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) indicated that a woman’s breast cancer risk drops 2 percent for every five months that she breastfeeds. “It isn’t always possible for moms to breastfeed,” Alice Bender, the AICR’s director of nutrition, said in a press release, “but for those who can, know that breastfeeding can offer cancer protection for both the mother and the child.” Researchers think that breastfeeding can reduce a woman’s exposure to potential cancer-causing hormones like estrogen by delaying the return of a new mom’s menstrual cycle. Also, the breast tissue that is shed after lactation may help women rid themselves of DNA-damaged cells. “With breastfeeding, we often think in terms of the benefits for the baby to be breastfed,” says Lucinda Edgren-Gebhardt, an Advocate nurse and certified lactation consultant at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center in Normal, Ill., “but we know there are benefits for the entire family.” Breast milk provides babies with important nutrients and helps strengthen their immune system. The AICR report also noted that breast-fed babies are less likely to gain excess weight as they mature, which could cut their risk later in life of cancers linked to obesity. “Breastfeeding – or even pumping and feeding breast milk from a bottle -- is a ‘win-win’ not just for mom and baby, but also for the family, the community and even the environment,” says Karen Shinville, another certified lactation consultant at BroMenn Medical Center. “With the many benefits of breastfeeding, it’s important that new moms get support to successfully breastfeed for longer than a few days or weeks,” said Bender. Edgren-Gebhardt and Shinville add that hospital lactation consultants can help assist new moms in reaching their personal breastfeeding goals.