Not that you needed another reason to choose breastfeeding — or pat yourself on the back if you did/do, or feel horribly guilty and pissed off if you didn’t/don’t — but this week came news reports of even more dramatic health benefits for moms who breastfeed. The new study, published in the May issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology, found that women who had breastfed were less likely to develop high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease than their non-nursing counterparts, and that the effect increases with increasing duration of breastfeeding.
The study looked at the data of 139,681 post-menopausal women whose health records have been followed as part of the Women’s Health Initiative. Those who breastfed for more than a year over the course of their lives, the study found, were almost ten times less likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke than those who hadn’t nursed at all, and they were 20 percent less likely to have diabetes, 12 percent less likely to have
hypertension, 19 percent less likely to have high cholesterol. Even one month of breastfeeding was associated with lowered rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Studies like this are often criticized for offering correlation but not causation — they are not constructed as a double-blind study with controls, and so it’s hard to tease out just which health benefits come from breastfeeding and which tend to go along with being the type of mother for whom breastfeeding is a priority (breastfeeding rates are much higher for richer, better-educated women overall). As one doctor told the New York Times, those who breastfeed