Breastfeeding Linked to Better Health for Mothers Too


Washington, DC—As the country recognizes National Women's Health Week, it is important to recognize the value of breastfeeding for women's health, in addition to its value for babies. Multiple studies have shown a reduced risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, and postpartum depression in women who have breastfed their babies. Additionally, according to a study of almost 140,000 women published last month in Obstetrics and Gynecology, the longer a woman breastfeeds, the lower her risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Heart disease is the number one cause of death among U.S. women each year.

USBC Chair Joan Younger Meek, MD, MS, RD, FAAP, FABM, IBCLC, affirms that: "Breastfeeding provides a host of benefits for women. Increased initiation and longer duration of breastfeeding are major cost-effective primary health prevention strategies that will decrease the number of women in the U.S. who will be affected by a number of conditions throughout their life span."

There are other more immediate advantages of breastfeeding for mothers. Breastfeeding helps restore the uterus to its original size by inducing uterine contractions and decreasing postpartum blood loss after birth. The act of breastfeeding also provides an intimate, relaxing experience for mother and baby, helping them bond. Physical contact is important to newborns and can help them feel more secure, warm, and comforted. Breastfeeding mothers also may have increased self-confidence and feelings of closeness to their infants.

Breast milk is always warm, ready for use, and in perfect proportion to infants' needs: no bottles to wash or trash to discard. Depending on the brand of formula that replaces it, breastfeeding can save families between $1,160 and $3,915 per year. And because of the immune protections provided to infants, breastfed babies are healthier, saving on health care expenses and increasing productivity of parents who miss less work.

Medical experts agree with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in recommending exclusive breastfeeding for six months and continued breastfeeding for the first year of life and beyond. Yet the CDC recently found that 60% of women do not even meet their own breastfeeding goals, and even fewer meet these universal recommendations, due to a number of barriers experienced by U.S. mothers.

The United States Breastfeeding Committee applauds all health care professionals who work to improve the health of women, and invites them to join in its work to reduce health care system and other barriers to breastfeeding. "Breastfeeding is critical for women's health," says Dr. Meek. "We must ensure that all women have the clear, balanced information about infant feeding choices to make informed decisions, and the support through our health care system, workplace, and society, to achieve their goals."

For more information about breastfeeding, visit The National Women's Health Information Center. To locate health care providers and knowledgeable breastfeeding support personnel that can offer assistance and answer questions about breastfeeding, visit the FAQs page on the USBC Web site.

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