Thanks to a deluge of public health campaigns in the United States over the past decade, everyone knows how good breastfeeding can be for your child beyond simple nutrition.
Breast milk is known for its disease-fighting power that can protect newborns from everything from stomach viruses and ear infections, but there are also studies that showed breastfed babies have higher IQs – and grow up to be wealthier to boot.
What about moms?
Most of the focus on the benefits to mothers has been on psychological effects such as strengthening the maternal bond. But a growing number of new studies provide evidence that breastfeeding may have a strong physical effect as well by cutting the women's risk of diabetes and cancer.
In a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine this week and funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, researchers studied 1,035 women at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, California, who delivered one child at term and who developed gestational diabetes. They found that those who breastfed were a great deal less likely – up to 50 percent less – to develop diabetes 2 in subsequent years than those who did not breast feed. Researchers theorized that lactation may affect metabolism and insulin sensitivity.
Another study published in the Annals of Oncology in October involved an analysis of 37,000 cases of women with breast cancer and found evidence suggesting that those who breastfeed may reduce an aggressive type of cancer called hormone receptive negative tumors by 20 percent. Previous research has shown that breastfeeding may also reduce the risk of ovarian cancer and the evidence of breastfeeding's protective effects is growing. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics states that"each year of breast-feeding has been calculated to result in a 4.3 percent reduction in breast cancer."