Does non-breastfeeding present health risks to mom?
It’s a well-known fact. Breast milk is best for babies. In the process, mommy’s health is also benefited by reducing the risks of hormone-related diseases such as breast and cervical cancer.
Recent research indicates, however, that it’s not about the benefits of breastfeeding to mommy’s health. It’s more like the risks of not breastfeeding that should be looked into.
A recent study of 139,681 women indicates that breastfeeding even just for six months in a lifetime decreases a woman’s risk for developing cardiovascular diseases (CVD: hypertension, heart disease, hyperlipidemia, and diabetes) come postmenopausal stage. The female hormones render women some protection against heart disease and related disorders. Once menopause sets in, this protection wanes, resulting in creased incidence of CVD in women.
The study found that with increasing duration of breastfeeding (cumulative), the risks for CVD decreases. And this risk reduction didn’t have to do with weight because study participants who breastfed and who didn’t, did not significantly differ in terms of body weight and body mass index (BMI). It has always been thought that breastfeeding helps get rid of pregnancy fat reserves. The study results did not confirm this. However, other protective effects, possibly related to the hormone oxytocin, may play a role. Oxytocin is the “feel good” hormone responsible for mother-baby bonding and strong maternal feelings but may also have some anti-stress effects that contribute to the well-being of the breastfeeding mom.
So is it the benefits of breastfeeding or the risks of not breastfeeding to maternal health? According to Dr Eleanor Bimla Schwarz of the University of Pittsburgh Center for Research on Healthcare, it must be the latter. Breastfeeding is part of the whole biological cycle of reproduction. Becoming pregnant and not fulfilling the cycle of nature by breastfeeding can have some adverse effects on the female body.
“During pregnancy, the body stores up a bunch of nutrients with the plan that it’s going to release much of this in the form of breast milk, a very calorific food. If this doesn’t happen, what we see is that the woman’s body pays the price. Breast-feeding really helps bring you back to your baseline, and it helps women recover from the stress test that pregnancy entails.”
This seems logical enough. However, we should bear in mind that there are women who are incapable of breastfeeding, for one reason or another, even if they want to.