By: Jennifer Jope for Uterus1
For women who are undecided about whether to breastfeed or not, a recent study’s findings might make their decision a little easier.
A study from Boston-based Brigham and Women’s Hospital found benefits of breastfeeding for mothers. By breastfeeding a child for one year, a woman reduces her risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 15 percent.
| Women can express milk either manually or through a breast pump. Pumping allows a mother to continue to breastfeed by stimulating milk production. Some tips for expressing breast milk: |
Wash hands well with soap and water.
Place a clean cup under your breast.
Massage breasts gently toward the nipples.
Place thumb about 1 inch back from the tip of the nipple and your first finger opposite.
Press back toward your chest, gently press the areola between the thumb and finger and release with a rhythmic motion until milk flows.
Rotate your thumb and finger around the areola to get milk from several positions.
Transfer the milk into clean, covered containers for storage in the refrigerator or freezer for later feedings.
Label the container and date it.
“We’ve known for a long time that breastfeeding is good for babies,” said lead author and BWH researcher, Dr. Alison Stuebe. “In this study, we found that it’s good for moms too.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that mothers breastfeed infants for at least one year to help a baby’s growth. According to the national association, human milk and infant formula are different. Because there are protective substances in human milk, breastfed children tend to experience less ear infections, allergies, vomiting, diarrhea and meningitis. The AAP also states there is research suggesting that breastfeeding may help prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
Researchers in the BWH study found the production of milk by a breastfeeding mother burns an average of 500 calories per day, which is equal to running between four and five miles. Stuebe said the added energy needed for lactation is “associated with short-term changes in insulin and glucose.”
The researchers also discovered further good news for breastfeeding mothers. The one year of breastfeeding not only lowered the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, the “protective effect” appeared to last up to 15 years after a woman’s last birth.
For each additional year of breastfeeding, there was a greater reduction in risk. Stuebe said if a woman had two children and breastfed each child for one year, the mother may reduce the risk of diabetes by one-third.
The data also revealed other news for women. Females with gestational diabetes (pregnant women who never had diabetes before, but who have high blood sugar levels during pregnancy), did not lower their risk of Type 2 diabetes even if they “breastfed intensely.” Researchers also noted that women who used medication to prevent lactation had an increased risk for Type 2 diabetes.
“Based on these findings, we have one more reason to encourage mothers to breastfeed,” Stuebe said. “Ensuring strong support for nursing mothers – from doctors and nurses to family members and employers – isn’t just important for babies. It’s a women’s health issue, too.”
The AAP cites other benefits for mothers who breastfeed, including a reduced risk of ovarian cancer, building bone strength and helping the uterus return to its regular size faster.
According to the American Diabetes Association, Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. The body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or the cells ignore the insulin, which is needed for the body to be able to use sugar. When glucose builds up in the blood instead of going into cells, two problems can occur. Cells may be starved for energy and over time, high blood glucose levels may damage eyes, kidneys, nerves or heart.
The study, which included more than 157,000 nurses enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Studies, was one of the first to review the long-term association between breastfeeding and Type 2 diabetes.
“Our study supports the theory that breastfeeding may be associated with important metabolic changes that influence diabetes risk,” Stuebe said. “However more research is needed to determine what hormonal and biological factors are involved.”
The two groups of women participating in the study ranged in age from 26 to 71 when the research began. The nurses answered questionnaires asking how many children they breastfed and the length of time, in addition to questions about their health and whether they had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes by a doctor. The researchers controlled factors including diet, exercise, weight and multivitamin use.