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Breastfeeding Promotes Moms' Cardiovascular Health

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Breastfeeding baby

University of Pittsburgh researchers have discovered that moms who breastfeed can reduce their risk of heart attack and stroke. The study, published May 2009 in Obstetrics & Gynecology, shows that breastfeeding women are promoting their own cardiovascular health for years to come.

Eleanor Bimla Schwarz, M.D., M.S., assistant professor of medicine, epidemiology, and obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Pittsburgh says the news that breastfeeding promotes heart health, and reduces stroke risk is noteworthy for women. "Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women, so it's vitally important for us to know what we can do to protect ourselves.”

Women who breastfed for one year had a ten percent lower incidence of complications that lead to stroke and heart attack, including diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Breastfeeding for just one month lowered the risk of heart disease among the moms studied.

The study was conducted on post-menopausal women, showing that the cardiovascular benefits for mothers who breastfeed are long lasting. The women studied had not breastfed for thirty-five years. The study included 139,681 women.

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The study authors suggest that employers take note of the heart healthy benefits of breastfeeding.
Workplace policies should be designed to encourage mothers to breast-feed their infants. Dr. Schwartz says,"The longer a mother nurses her baby, the better for both of them."

According to the Surgeon General, “Breast milk is the best source of infant nutrition. When a mother chooses to breastfeed, we also have a responsibility to protect and support her decision by providing an environment that enables her to be successful.” (1)

The newest study adds to the host of health benefits for infants and moms, associated with breastfeeding. Improved cardiovascular health, that lasts after menopause, can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke ten percent in women who breastfeed for one year.

University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

(1) http://www.publichealthreports.org/userfiles/124_3/356-358.pdf