When discussing the benefits of breastfeeding, most of us tend to think about the benefits for the baby, such as nutrients and antibodies that fight infectious diseases. But breastfeeding has health benefits for moms too.
Recent research done by Maureen Groer of the University of South Florida shows that mothers with gestational diabetes have an 86 percent decrease in the likelihood of developing metabolic syndrome as they age if they have breastfed at least one child for at least six months. She has also discovered a substantially reduced risk for developing any auto-immune disease, especially rheumatoid arthritis, after weaning a child. The research shows that the benefits are dose dependent, which means that the more and longer a mother breastfeeds the more benefits she will reap.
Mothers who breastfeed exclusively – meaning her baby receives breast milk only – for at least six months benefit more than those who breastfeed less. It is also important to continue on after starting solid foods for at least one year. Pumping milk for at least six months is the next best way to reap the benefits. Mothers that breastfeed multiple children totaling six months or longer receive some of the benefits, but breastfeeding each child for at least six months is considered best.
For example, if a mother has two children and she breastfeeds one for three months and one for nine months she will not receive as much protection as a mother with two children that fed them each for six months. And remember, the longer a mother breastfeeds after her child turns one year, the more protection she will receive.
Other benefits a mother may receive from breastfeeding are: faster weight loss, lower cholesterol level (after the baby is weaned), reduced risk of developing pre-menopausal breast cancer, and a feeling of empowerment by what her body can do.
If you are still undecided about breastfeeding, why not give it a try. Any amount of breastmilk is better than none, and you will be giving yourself and your child health benefits for a lifetime.
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