Breastfeeding is tough work. If the frequent feedings aren't exhausting enough, you also face potential issues with leaking, engorgementmastitis, latching -- the list goes on. It's nice to be reminded, then, that nursing isn't just good for baby, it's also beneficial for you, too. So my ears perked up when I heard about a new study that has uncovered a link between breastfeeding and better outcomes with breast cancer.
Researchers at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, California, analyzed 1,600 women who were diagnosed with the disease and discovered that the ones who nursed their babies had a 30 percent decreased risk of the most common type of breast cancers coming back. If that weren't reason enough to jump for joy, the data also showed that breastfeeding moms had a 28 percent reduced risk of dying from breast cancer.
Though breastfeeding for any amount of time will help, researchers found the strongest evidence in women who nursed for six months or longer—which, coincidentally, is how long the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends you exclusively nurse your baby.
These promising findings piggyback on earlier research about the health benefits of nursing. "If a woman breastfeeds, she reduces her risk of developing breast cancer by about 5 percent to 10 percent, although other factors come into play," Marilyn Kwan, leader of the study, which was published online in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, said in a statement. "We think this is one of the first [studies] to examine the role of breastfeeding and breast cancer outcomes—prognosis and survival."
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Doctors are still trying to nail down how and why breastfeeding offers such super hero protection for mamas—matured ductal cells in the breast and a lowered exposure to hormones that promote cancers are two guesses—but no matter. This study may not be as flashy as, say, a Sex Pistols-inspired tub of breast milk ice cream, but considering how many of our moms, sisters, and friends are battling the disease, I think it's much more exciting.
But how about you: Do studies like this one influence your opinion of breastfeeding? Tell us in the comments below! And don't forget to sign up to receive our free Parents Daily Baby newsletter.
Bonnie Gibbs Vengrow is a New York City-based writer and editor who traded in her Blackberry and Metro card for playdates and PB&J sandwiches—and the once-in-a-lifetime chance to watch her feisty, funny son grow up. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.
Image of nursing baby courtesy of Shutterstock