Breastfeeding delivers numerous benefits to a child—from heightened immune function to even greater intelligence. But breastfeeding isn’t only good for the recipient; it’s good for the mother. According to a new study from researchers in Spain, women who breastfeed for more than 6 months are less likely to develop early breast cancer than women who do not breastfeed at all.
The study looked at the medical records of 504 women between the ages of 19 and 91 who had been treated for breast cancer. Remarkably, the women who had not breastfed their babies got breast cancer 10 years earlier than those who did.
Smoking, however, counteracted the benefits of breastfeeding. Women who smoked received “no significant benefit” from a longer period of breastfeeding.
Because the women weren’t diagnosed for an average of 10 years later than their non-breastfeeding counterparts, they lived an estimated 10 years longer.
The study’s authors concluded:
“Breastfeeding for periods over 6 months not only provides children with numerous health benefits, but also protects the mother from serious diseases such as breast cancer. Breastfeeding is a potential ally in the fight against breast tumors.
Our study concluded that breastfeeding for over six months not only provides children with numerous health benefits, but also protects mothers from breast cancer when the mothers are nonsmokers.”
With breast cancer accounting for an estimated 20% of all cancers, these findings are important. Over the past century, breast cancer has grown significantly and this study indicates a decline in breast feeding over that same period could be linked.
Luckily, the number of women breastfeeding has increased in the past 10 years, signaling a return to nature’s best baby food—one that makes for a stronger and healthier mother and child. And if you don’t want to breastfeed to protect yourself, don’t think twice about breastfeeding for your baby’s health. Breastfeeding has been shown to increase a child’s overall immunity, halve obesity risk, and even improve intelligence. One report from Save the Children, called Superfood for Babies, indicates that breastfeeding newborns could save around 830,000 lives each and every year.