Sunday, December 13, 2009

Can Breastfeeding Improve Bone Health?

Written by Kristie Leong, M.D.

If you're pregnant and can't decide whether to breastfeed or bottle feed, consider this. A new study shows that breast feeding may lower the risk of osteoporosis and bone loss. With osteoporosis and bone loss being so common among women, breastfeeding may be a way to improve bone health while building a stronger bond with the newest member of the family.

Breastfeeding to Improve Bone Health: What a New Study Shows

A study published in Family Practice News showed that not only does breastfeeding lower the risk of osteoporosis and bone loss, but delaying pregnancy until after the bones have reached their maximum density also improves bone health. Women who waited until at least twenty-seven years of age before getting pregnant and who breast fed had a five percent incidence of osteoporosis later in life compared to a twenty-five percent incidence in those who had a child at twenty-seven or later who didn't breast feed. In any case, women who breastfed regardless of the age at which they became pregnant had a lower risk of osteoporosis compared to those who didn't '" one more advantage of breastfeeding.

Other Benefits of Breastfeeding: A Reduction in Cancer Risk

Breastfeeding may do more than improve bone health and prevent fractures in old age. Breast feeding a baby also reduces the risk of breast cancer. Like pregnancy, breastfeeding reduces the number of periods a woman has over a lifetime which slightly lowers the overall risk of getting breast cancer; and the longer a women breastfeeds, the greater the reduction in risk. Each year of breastfeeding drops a woman's breast cancer risk by around four percent which adds up if you have multiple pregnancy. Breastfeeding also reduces the risk of other female cancers including uterine and ovarian cancer.

Breastfeeding helps to take off post-pregnancy weight according to some studies - allowing you to get back into pre-pregnancy shape faster. It also supplies health benefits to the growing baby by supplying the little one with antibodies to fight off infection and allergies later in life, and by creating a stronger bond between mom and baby.

The Benefits of Breastfeeding: The Bottom Line

The prevention of osteoporosis and bone loss adds to the growing list of reasons to breast feed rather than bottle feed the newborn baby. Put away the bottle and make the decision to breastfeed. It's a win-win situation for both mom and baby.

References:

Family Practice News. November 1, 2009. page 17