The Gift of Breast Milk: Breastfeeding May Lower Your Chances of Hypertension

The Gift of Breast Milk: Breastfeeding May Lower Your Chances of Hypertension

You’ve already read countless times on why breastfeeding is best for babies but there are really good reasons why it’s good for moms, too! Now a new study shows that women who nurse more children, and for longer periods of time, can reduce their hypertension risk after they reach menopause.

Researchers Sangshin Park of the Center for International Health Research in Rhode Island, USA and Nam-Kyong Choi of the Department of Health Convergence in Ewha Women’s University, South Korea, studied 3,119 non-smoking postmenopausal women in their 50’s and above. These women participated in the 2010-2011 Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

The study found that women who nursed around five to 11 children showed a 51% lower risk of hypertension compared to those who did not breastfeed or only breastfed one child. Those who breastfed the longest (96 to 324 months) showed a 45% lower risk of hypertension.

But for women who were obese and had higher insulin resistance, the protective effect was not as strong.

While more research is needed to understand the relationship between breastfeeding and lower hypertension risk fully, the researchers proposed that the act of breastfeeding could “reset” maternal metabolism after pregnancy, which includes fat accumulation and insulin resistance. This decreases the risk of obesity-related diseases such as hypertension.

The second reason was that breastfeeding releases a hormone called oxytocin, which further lowers the risk of these diseases. Oxytocin is also known as the “bonding hormone” and is associated with nurturing, trusting, and affectionate behavior, and can help lower blood pressure.

Studies have always focused on the effect of breastfeeding on infants, like reducing children’s allergies, celiac disease (a serious autoimmune disorder), obesity, and diabetes. Focusing on the beneficial effects that breastfeeding may have for the mother is welcome news, especially since high blood pressure is connected to more than 9.4 million deaths worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. If you’ve been looking for reasons to extend your nursing sessions more than the recommended six months, then add this to the list!


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