According to a meta-analysis of Journal of the American Heart Association (JAHA), breastfeeding a baby is not only good for the baby, but also for the mother, as it reduces the probability of developing heart disease or stroke, or dying from cardiovascular disease.
Previous studies have investigated the association between breastfeeding and the risk of cardiovascular disease in the mother; however, the findings were inconsistent in terms of the strength of the association and, specifically, the relationship between different durations of breastfeeding and the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Review of eight studies
The researchers reviewed health information from eight studies conducted between 1986 and 2009 in Australia, China, Norway, Japan, and the United States. The review included health records from nearly 1.2 million women (with an average age of 25 years at the first delivery) and analyzed the relationship between breastfeeding and the mother’s individual cardiovascular risk. The review found:
82% of women reported having breastfed at some time in their life.
Compared with women who never breastfed, women who reported lifetime breastfeeding had an 11% lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
During an average follow-up period of 10 years, women who breastfed at some point in their life were 14% less likely to develop coronary heart disease; 12% less likely to suffer strokes; and 17% less likely to die from cardiovascular disease.
Women who breastfed for 12 months or more during their lifetime appeared to be less likely to develop cardiovascular disease than women who did not breastfeed.
There were no notable differences in the risk of cardiovascular disease between women of different ages or according to the number of pregnancies.
The health benefits of breastfeeding for children are well known. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it is linked to fewer respiratory infections and a lower risk of death from infectious diseases among children who were breastfed. Breastfeeding has also been linked to benefits for maternal health, including a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, ovarian cancer, and breast cancer.