Breastfeeding helps mothers' health too

April 21, 2009 at 5:14 PM

PITTSBURGH, April 21 (UPI) -- The longer women breastfeed, the lower their risk of heart attacks, strokes and cardiovascular disease, University of Pittsburgh researchers said.

"We have known for years that breastfeeding is important for babies' health; we now know that it is important for mothers' health as well," Dr. Eleanor Bimla Schwarz said in a statement.

The study, published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, found postmenopausal women who breastfed for at least one month had lower rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol -- all known to cause heart disease.

Women who had breastfed their babies for more than a year were 10 percent less likely to have had a heart attack, stroke, or developed heart disease than women who had never breastfed.

Schwarz and colleagues found that the benefits from breastfeeding were long-term -- an average of 35 years had passed since women enrolled in the study had last breastfed an infant. The researchers used data from 139,681 postmenopausal women enrolled in the Women's Health Initiative.

"The longer a mother nurses her baby, the better for both of them," Schwarz said in a statement. "Our study provides another good reason for workplace policies to encourage women to breastfeed their infants."

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