A Nursing Breast Is A Healthier Breast By: Carrie Lauth
In recent years we've learned a lot about how breastfeeding improves the health of babies. Formula feeding increases the risk of many types of diseases. Short term, formula fed babies are more likely to become ill with ear and respiratory infections and other illnesses. When they do get sick they are more seriously ill and much more likely to be hospitalized. Long term, formula fed infants are more likely to suffer from diabetes, obesity, asthma, Crohn's disease, and other ailments.
Interestingly, a lot of research points to numerous ways that breastfeeding impacts Mom's health. Let's look at just one of these findings.
A Lactating Breast is a Healthier Breast
Numerous studies have shown that breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast cancer. This is due in part to hormonal factors: nursing moms go without ovulating for longer periods of time than women who don't breastfeed. There is a connection between the number of times a woman has an ovulatory cycle in her lifetime and the likelihood of her contracting breast cancer. Breastfeeding also completes the normal fertility cycle of conception, pregnancy and lactation.
Additionally, the act of suckling itself plays a role. One native culture that traditionally only nursed on one breast had fewer incidences of cancer in the lactating breast. This makes perfect sense when you think about it: a body organ that is used the way it's designed to be used is healthier than tissue that isn't used. If you decided to sit in a wheelchair instead of using your legs to walk, what do you suppose would happen to your legs? They would eventually atrophy and become diseased.
Additionally, the longer a woman breastfeeds, the greater the protection offered against cancer. Scientists find that the more months a woman has spent nursing, the lower her risk of contracting breast cancer... great incentive to listen to the World Health Organization's advice to nurse for two years or more!
Interestingly, breastfeeding lowers the *babies* rate of breast cancer! While science is still trying to figure out exactly why this is so, one theory is that exposure to Mom's estrogen via breastmilk "immunizes" baby to estrogen later in life. Also, the immune factors present in mom's milk likely play a role in strengthening resistance to disease, even to a disease like cancer.
Who knows what else the scientific community will discover about the magic of mom's milk?
Carrie Lauth is a Mom of 4, breastfeeding educator and the owner of www.TheHappyBreastfeeder.com, a free newsletter for Moms who want to breastfeed their babies.
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