Breastfeeding boosts moms’ heart health

By The Health News Team | February 8, 2022
Woman with infant

There are many benefits to breastfeeding. Now, a new study suggests that women’s heart health is one of them.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA), found that women who breastfeed are less likely to develop a stroke or coronary heart disease, or die from cardiovascular disease, than women who gave birth but did not breastfeed.

This research adds to the vast body of knowledge that breastfeeding is healthy for both mom and baby. Women who breastfeed are less likely to develop breast, thyroid, ovarian and endometrial cancer. They are also less likely to develop other conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis.

Similarly, breastfed babies are less likely to develop asthma, celiac disease, and Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The added benefits of breastfeeding
Researchers in the JAHA study gathered health information from several studies conducted between 1986 and 2009. The data of approximately 1.2 million women around the world, in countries including the U.S. and Japan, showed a positive correlation between breastfeeding and cardiovascular health.

In analyzing the data, researchers found that women who breastfed for any duration were 12% less likely to have a stroke, 14% less likely to develop coronary heart disease, and 17% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease compared to women who did not breastfeed.

While researchers do not yet know specifically how breastfeeding can help with good heart health, there are some theories.

“One theory is that during breastfeeding, the release of the hormone oxytocin helps to relax blood vessels, which ultimately aids in blood flow to and from the heart,” says Dana Cohen, manager of Maternal Infant Services at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns. At Sharp Mary Birch, specially trained nurses and lactation consultants support new moms who want to breastfeed.

“Also, breastfeeding can help women lose pregnancy weight, including fat reserves, which may help improve the body’s metabolism, thus helping heart health,” she says.

According to the study, women who breastfed for up to a year had a higher likelihood of protection from cardiovascular disease.

“It’s important for new moms to know about all the benefits of breastfeeding,” says Cohen. “As this study suggests, there may be even more long-term benefits for their own health.”

Learn more about breastfeeding classes and support group webinars for breastfeeding offered by Sharp HealthCare.

Person placeholder image

Dana Cohen

Contributor

Dana Cohen, RN, is a manager of Maternal Infant Services Unit at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns.


Get the best of Sharp Health News in your inbox

Our weekly email brings you the latest health tips, recipes and stories.