Sabine M. Paez
University of Maryland University College
February 23, 2014
Maternal Benefits of Breastfeeding
Breast is Best is a widely spread saying and people in the US are slowly beginning to accept it for what it is, a fact and not only a slogan. Research and medical studies reconfirmed breastfeeding as the best nutritional option for babies so that health agencies, such as World Health Organization, UNICEF, La Leche League, and many more, have made it their worldwide mission to educate people about the importance and benefits of breastfeeding. Their efforts within the US seem to be paying off, as most Americans are aware of the fact that breastfeeding is the best nutritional choice for a baby. Unfortunately, it is by far less known that breastfeeding is not only beneficial to the baby, but also to the mother. Breastfeeding is a major contributor to a mother’s health and well-being. Breastfeeding, sometimes also referred to as the final stage of labor, provides mothers with remarkable health benefits, lasting not only throughout the duration of breastfeeding, but an entire lifetime.
Probably the most important health benefit of breastfeeding is the decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Despite extensive research and efforts there still is no cure for cancer; cancer remains a major public health problem all over the world and causes one in four deaths in the United States. (Siedel, Naishadnam, & Jemal, 2013, p. 11). In 2014 there will be an estimated 232, 2670 new cases of breast cancer amongst women in which 40,000 will result in death. (Siedel et al., 2014, p. 12). The prognosis for ovarian cancer is an estimated 52,630 new cases in which 14,270 will lead to death. These numbers are scary to anyone but especially young women and mothers to little children. It is a ray of hope for women that breastfeeding may significantly reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancer, as multiple studies have examined and concluded a connection between breastfeeding and breast and ovarian cancer. A recent analysis of 47 different studies declared that each year of breast-feeding lowered the risk of invasive breast cancer by 4.3%. (Stuebe & Schwarz, 2010, p. 156). A US multi-centre trial of over 14 000 women of different age groups found that breast cancer risk was 22% lower among premenopausal women who had breastfed than among those who had not. The authors of the trial also estimated that if all mothers breastfed their children for 4-12 months, breast cancer among premenopausal women could be reduced by 11%. (Blincoe, 2005, p. 398). Similar findings were made during studies relating breastfeeding to ovarian cancer as stated by the Journal of Perinatology: “Multiple case-control studies have found a higher risk of ovarian cancer among parous women who have never breast-fed.”(Stuebe & Schwarz, 2010, p. 156). A multinational study provided data which stated a 20-25% decreased risk of ovarian cancer among women who breastfed for at least two months per pregnancy, compared to those who did not. (Blincoe, 2005, p. 398). Though developing mastitis while breastfeeding can be very painful and discouraging for a nursing mother, it seems to have a positive attribute nevertheless; research has shown that antibodies which develop during mastitis, play a role in reducing the risk of ovarian cancer. Women who never breastfed had the highest rates of ovarian cancer, those who breastfed but didn’t develop mastitis had an intermediate risk, whereas mothers who developed mastitis while breastfeeding stood the lowest risk of ovarian cancer. (Stuebe & Schwarz, 2010, p. 156). The authors of “The risks and benefits of infant feeding practices” explained the protective connection of breastfeeding and breast and ovarian cancer as followed: “Lactation suppresses ovulation, leading to lactational amenorrhea. In addition, lactogenesis leads to terminal differentiation of the breast tissue,