(NaturalNews) Breastfeeding has long been known to be good for mother and baby. La Leche League International lists many benefits, including that breast-milk is easy for the baby to digest, and has natural antibodies protecting the baby against bacteria and viruses. Now a new study by the University of Pittsburgh has shown that breastfeeding protects women from heart disease, heart attacks and strokes as well.
Published in the May issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the study finds that if a woman breastfeeds for one year or more, she is ten percent less likely to have heart attacks, heart disease or strokes. Dr. Eleanor Bilma Schwarz, a researcher at the University of Pittsburgh and author of the study says, "Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women, so it's vitally important for us to know what we can do to protect ourselves."
The study found that even one month of breastfeeding lowers the rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, all of which lead to heart disease. Yet Dr. Swartz points out, "The longer a mother nurses her baby, the better for both of them." Dr. Schwarz and her colleagues studied 139,681 post-menopausal women, whose average age was 63. Even though the protection did fade somewhat due to other variables, such as poor diet and lack of exercise, they found the benefits of breastfeeding were long-term.
Breastfeeding has been long shown to protect women against ovarian and breast cancer, now Dr. Schwarz has proven it protects against heart disease as well.
Many women can be dissuaded to breastfeed, especially at hospitals which often still separate mother and baby. Nurses offer babies bottles of formula, and send new parents home with free formula samples.
La Leche League encourages new families to learn about breastfeeding early. They suggest contacting La Leche League leaders (who offer help free of charge), attending free meetings to become familiar with breastfeeding, and being surrounded by supportive people, even before the baby is born.
The benefits of breastfeeding stretch even beyond health of mother and baby: it is good for the environment, as breast-milk is offered free of packaging, processing and shipping.
Natural remedies are even available to women who feel they don't have enough milk. Dandelion, for example, is excellent to promote lactation. Herbalist Susun Weed recommends women begin taking dandelion - either by eating the leaves, drinking the root tea, or as a tincture - the last two months of pregnancy and throughout the time they are breastfeeding (1).
More and more research is supporting what many instinctively know to be true. Breast-milk is the best food for nourishing growing babies, and it is best for mom as well.
Weed, Susun. Healing Wise. Ash Tree Publishing. Woodstock, NY. 1989.
About the author
Melissa Sokulski is an acupuncturist, herbalist, and founder of the website Food Under Foot, a website devoted entirely to wild edible plants. The website offers plant descriptions, photographs, videos, recipes and more. Her new workbook, Wild Plant Ally, offers an exciting, hands-on way to learn about wild edible plants. Melissa also runs The Birch Center for Health in Pittsburgh, PA, providing the best in complementary health care: acupuncture, therapeutic massage and herbal medicine.
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