A meta analysis revealed that women who breastfed their children had an 11% to 17% lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD), coronary heart disease (CHD), or stroke, and of dying from CVD, in later life than mothers who did not. On average, the women had two children and had breastfed for 15.9 months in total. Longer breastfeeding was associated with greater CV health benefit. Breastfeeding is known to be associated with a lower risk for death from infectious disease and with fewer respiratory infections in babies, the researchers write, but what is less well known is that it is also associated with a reduced risk for breast and ovarian cancer and type 2 diabetes in mothers.
Specifically, mothers who had breastfed their children at any time had an 11% lower risk for CVD, a 14% lower risk for CHD, a 12% lower risk for stroke, and a 17% lower risk of dying from CVD in later life, compared with other mothers. On the basis of existing evidence, the researchers write, the World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding until a baby is 6 months old, followed by breastfeeding plus complementary feeding until the baby is 2 years or older.
The lead author Lena Tschiderer, Dipl.-Ing., PhD, and senior author Peter Willeit, MD, MPhil, PhD, summarized that this study showed a clear association between breastfeeding and reduced risk for CVD in later life. Authors believe that [breastfeeding] benefits for the mother are communicated poorly.
Researchers concluded by saying that the positive effects of breastfeeding on mothers need to be communicated effectively, awareness for breastfeeding recommendations needs to be raised, and interventions to promote and facilitate breastfeeding need to be implemented and reinforced.