BREASTFEEDING BENEFICIAL TO MOTHERS IN MANY WAYS


It is quite astonishing to learn that today’s fashion allows indecent exposure of breasts, which in a nursing mothers’ view are a good storage of bay’s first food than attracting potential husbands. We say this because most mothers are now skeptical to breast feed their infants due to misconception that it may affect their breast morphology and make them look less attractive. Hence, this article discusses the benefits of breastfeeding to the mother in an age where most women look at it as less fashionable.

To begin with, breastfeeding burns extra calories, so it can help a nursing mother to lose pregnancy weight faster. The act further stimulates the release of the hormone oxytocin, which helps uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size and may reduce uterine bleeding after birth. Breastfeeding also lowers the risk of cardiovascular conditions, diabetes or breast and ovarian cancer. It may also lower the risk of osteoporosis, too.

The mechanisms behind these increased risks are still being sorted out, but researchers think that by not engaging in the process that the body prepares for during pregnancy, many crucial systems can go out of whack. And the effects can last for decades after children are weaned.

Mobilizing mothers’ fat is one of the breastfeeding benefits that accrue in part because nursing can start to break down some of the fat that accumulates in women’s bodies during pregnancy. At first, some mothers despair for their figures because having children generally leads to thicker midsections and thighs as women’s bodies change to nourish a developing fetus and boost stores for feeding the baby once it is born. Although not optimal for long-term health, this extra weight serves an important evolutionary function.

Clearly the woman’s body is positioning itself to be able to put out an extra meal for another body and it just takes saving calories. Producing milk for a single infant requires about 480 extra calories a day. Various analyses have come back with different information of the ability of breastfeeding to help women slim down more quickly after pregnancy. New research presented in March from Schwarz and Candace McClure, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Pittsburgh’s Department of Epidemiology, found that women who had not breastfed had an average of about seven and a half additional centimeters of fat around their waists (as gleaned from CT scans).

But Schwarz further points out that, “not all body fat is created equal.” The fat that tends to accumulate during pregnancy is in part visceral fat, which sits around organs in the midsection and can put people more at risk for heart and other types of diseases. Their CT study also found that, of the 351 women aged 45 to 58, those who had children and not breastfed had 28 percent more visceral fat than those who had consistently breastfed.

Lactating women appear to be better at mobilizing these new fat stores than new mothers who are using formula. And not shedding those extra post-pregnancy pounds may put women at risk for complications in later pregnancies as well as metabolic syndrome and related health problems, Stuebe and colleagues noted in a January 2009 review article published in the American Journal of Perinatology.

One big concern though, about these additional fat stores is their potential role in upping chances for diabetes later in life. Pregnancy itself can decrease glucose tolerance and raise insulin resistance, hence the prevalence of gestational diabetes. But research is accumulating to suggest that the process of lactation works to re-establish the balance of these key sensitivities.

Women who develop gestational diabetes are generally thought to be at higher risk for developing regular diabetes later in life. But new research has shown that this increased risk is significantly lessened for women who breastfeed for more than nine months. In addition, being able to tell women who have had gestational diabetes that breastfeeding will lower their chances of getting diabetes later has given many patients renewed hope for their future health.

Breastfeeding is also documented to help mothers’ cardiovascular health in very specific ways as Schwartz found in her analysis of postmenopausal women. “Women who reported longer histories of lactation had significantly lower rates of risk factors for cardiovascular disease, even after adjusting for sociodemographic and lifestyle variables, family history and BMI category,” Schwarz and her colleagues concluded in their May 2009 analysis. In fact, those who had breastfed for more than 12 months were about 10 percent less likely to develop cardiovascular disease compared with women who had not breastfed.

Therefore, recent research has shown aortic calcification, a risk factor for stroke, heart attack and other cardiovascular complications as “significantly more likely” to be found in mothers who had not breastfed than in those who had for at least three months even after adjusting for lifestyle, family history, socioeconomic status, BMI and other health issues, according to a study led by Schwarz.

One possible explanation though for aortic calcification may hinge on the fact that cholesterol levels increase during pregnancy. But, for mothers who do not breastfeed, levels of triglycerides seem to take longer (by about three months) to reach pre-pregnancy levels. Nursing mothers also seem to have higher levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or so-called “good cholesterol”) while they are breastfeeding. However, these shorter-term effects do not entirely clear up some of the questions surrounding heart disease later in life.

Better long-term heart health for breastfeeding mothers might stem in part from blood pressure, which was “significantly higher” in mothers who had not breastfed than in those who had (120 mmHg and 115 mmHg, respectively), according to the 2010 Schwarz study. Research has suggested that one in 29 cases of postmenopausal hypertension could be avoided if mothers breastfed for at least 12 months during their reproductive years.

Risks for cardiovascular disease in lactating versus non-lactating mothers seem to be firm regardless of BMI, which is usually a factor for both conditions. This finding “indicates that lactation does more than simply reduce a woman’s fat stores,” Schwarz and her colleagues wrote in their May 2009 paper. They proposed that hormonal stimulation is likely playing a substantial role.

The neurotransmitter oxytocin, which is released during nursing, seems to help women get to that “blissed-out state” many women have while breastfeeding. And this relaxed state of mind can help women cope with all the stresses “that go with being a new mom.” Simply getting the body in the habit of releasing this hormone by frequent nursing can pay off long after weaning. Moms who breastfeed over long times, get really good at releasing oxytocin at other times, which activates the parasympathetic nervous system and can help alleviate stress later in life.

The National Institutes of Health reviewed more than 9,000 study abstracts and concluded that women who didn’t breastfeed or who stopped breastfeeding early on had a higher risk of postpartum depression.

Many women report feeling relaxed while breastfeeding. That’s because nursing triggers the release of the hormone oxytocin. Numerous studies in animals and humans have found that oxytocin promotes nurturing and relaxation. As earlier indicated in this write-up, Oxytocin released while nursing also helps the uterus contract after birth, resulting in less postpartum bleeding.

One study found that women who had high amounts of oxytocin in their system (50 percent of breastfeeding moms as opposed to 8 percent of bottle-feeding moms) had lower blood pressure after being asked to talk about a stressful personal problem.

By the way, in case you are a breastfeeding mom and you are being treated for depression, you can still breastfeed your baby. Your healthcare practitioner can help you identify safe ways to treat your depression while nursing.

Breastfeeding has also been often attributed to reduce the risk of some types of cancer and numerous studies have found that the longer women breastfeed, the more they’re protected against breast and ovarian cancer. For breast cancer, nursing for at least a year appears to have the most protective effect.

It’s not entirely clear how breastfeeding helps, but it may have to do with the structural changes in breast tissue caused by breastfeeding and the fact that lactation suppresses the amount of estrogen the body produces. Researchers think the effect on ovarian cancer may be related to estrogen suppression as well. New research is underscoring this link and shedding new light on some of the ways in which not nursing puts some women at higher risk.

The mechanisms behind these statistics remain unclear. But, it has been empirically noted that women who had taken medication to suppress lactation also seem to have a lower risk of developing breast cancer compared with women who give birth but do not breastfeed. These findings hint that the changes in breasts that become engorged with milk that is not expressed could up the chances for breast cancer down the road.

Ovarian cancer risk also appears to be partially tied in with breastfeeding. When compared with women who had breastfed for at least 18 months, mothers who never breastfed had a 1.5-fold increased risk of developing ovarian cancer, according to one analysis. Another study, published November 2009 in Cancer Causes & Control, found that the protective effect of lactating on ovarian cancer was strongest if women had breastfed their last child.

One hypothesis for the ovarian cancer connection is that small infections that often occur during breastfeeding (known as mastitis) might serve to protect the body against tumors in the future. Antibodies that develop to fight the mastitis would persist in the body, and corollary evidence has shown that women who breastfed but did not have these antibodies were more likely to develop ovarian cancer than those who breastfed and did have the antibodies.

Despite the multitude of studies on maternal health outcomes and breastfeeding, many are small or based on methodologies that can fall prey to unintentional biases. There also might be a sort of long-term feedback loop, in which women who were breastfed as infants would be more likely to breastfeed their own children, thus benefiting from both their own early breast milk diet and the effects of lactating themselves.

For instance, some studies have tied breastfeeding to faster weight loss but the dynamic is much more complicated. Being obese at delivery has also been linked to difficulty breastfeeding and decreased release of the hormone prolactin, which stimulates lactation.

To sum up, Breastfeeding is the standard to which all other feeding methods should be compared. “It’s not best, it’s not optimal—it’s just normal.” Although many of the results from studies that use formula feeding as a baseline remain valid, the mindset behind it is overdue for change. When assessed as the norm, breastfeeding should not bestow benefits as much as formula feeding increases risks. Breastfeeding is natural – but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy. Hence, don’t hesitate to contact your healthcare provider if you need help or support as this article has not exhaustively discussed the benefits of breastfeeding to the mother.

Jones H. Munang’andu
Professional Scientific Medical Writer
Health commentator
Contact; mobile 0966565670
Email; [email protected]
Skype; jones.muna


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