Health Team

Researchers: Breast-feeding also good for mother

Posted November 19, 2008

— About 70 percent of North Carolina women start breast-feeding their babies when they are in the hospital. However, only about 8 percent of women practice exclusive breast-feeding through the first six months – as recommended by the U.S. Breast-feeding Committee.

Kelly Felten says it was an easy decision to refuse formula and breast-feed her daughter, Julia.

“Just based on the research, I knew it was the best thing for her, and I have a lot of friends who were very supportive,” she said.

Though nursing was uncomfortable for the first few weeks, Felten said she knew she was helping boost Julia's immunity to germs.

Research shows it also helps prevent long-term disease, like diabetes.

“Babies who are breast-fed end up with lower cholesterol levels, lower hypertension. They do better in school,” said Dr. Miriam Labbok, with the Carolina Breast-Feeding Institute.

Labbok says those benefits are more certain if mothers stick with nursing at least six months.

If they breast-feed even longer – up to two years – the mother's risk of developing diabetes and ovarian cancer is reduced. An aggressive form of breast cancer, basal cell, that is more common among African-American women is also affected by breast-feeding, researchers said.

“What this means is if African-American women choose to breast-feed, they can really reduce their risk of this type of breast cancer,” Labbok said.

Some argue breast-feeding has breast cancer prevention benefits for all women.

“My mother had breast cancer and my aunt, so when I learned about that, (it was) just one more for the pro (breast-feeding) column,” Felten said.

North Carolina lags behind the national average in the number of women who continue breast-feeding.

UNC and several other hospitals have a lactation clinic where women can come for help if they are experiencing problems nursing their babies, and sometimes a lactation specialist can even come to your home.


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  • Mom of a Marine Nov 21, 2008

    I breastfed my first 3 children. First for 10 months, second for about 6 months, third for about 2 months. My 4th child was bottlefed from the beginning. My first born the longest breastfed and the fourth (bottlefed) were sick enough with ear infections that they required tubes. All of my children are very bright and smart. I think it should be the woman's choice. The people on the breastfeeding bandwagon need to stop trying to shove it down the throats of those that don't choose that method to feed their babies.

  • TeAcH12 Nov 21, 2008

    As I mother of 4, for the first 3 I was a stay at home mom who because of complications could only breast feed my 1st child for 6 weeks, the 2 middle were breast fed exclusively for about 13 mos. and with my fourth I was a full-time college student who breast fed for the 1st 6mos., going btw classes to pump and store in a cooler at the college where I was also a part time student. It wasnt easy at all, but I did and am very happy I did. I know the heart ache of doing it and then getting so sick you are unable too, also the help wasnt there like there should be for mothers or I might have known the ways to be able to breast feed even after sickness. I will say this, its such a joy to do something so basic with rich benefits. So whether its 6 weeks or 2 years, I would advise every woman to at least try. You and your child will benefit.

  • fuzzmom Nov 21, 2008

    I breastfed for 14 months and I am glad I did. Can't begin to recommend it enough. About it being uncomfortable, yes, it is, but so what? It certainly didn't last forever. I was taught when I was small that part of being a woman is to have pain and deal with it. Anyway, if it hurt that much, you were probably doing it wrong. All the more reason why news about breastfeeding should get more attention. Most women stop because they don't have support to help them thru pitfalls like improper latching on.

  • FullOfId Nov 21, 2008

    My husband and I were both formula fed - we are intelligent, sucessful, healthy people. Our son was formula fed and with the exception of a few colds over the span of his 2 years, he has been VERY healthy. He is reaching all his developmental milestones and is very happy.
    I agree that genetics plays a HUGE role in the health and well-being of a child. I wish that breast-feeding proponents wouldn't force the issue so much.
    Kids get sick - that's part of life. I have a hard time believing that it has alot to do with what they ate the first year of their lives. I'm not trying to raise a genius - I just want a happy, healthy baby and so far, that's what I have.
    I have seen plenty of breast-fed babies end up with asthma as well as other medical conditions and runny noses.

  • zetagp Nov 20, 2008

    Wow, the folks that didn't breastfeed always have so much to say! The research is out there to support the merits of breastfeeding to moms and their babies. Kids are typically smarter and have fewer health problems when breastfed. There are so many more benefits backed up solidly by research. Formula is synthetic. Breastmilk has well over 300 ingredients unable to be replicated by man. Remember the recent formula crisis in China where some infants died and many others were hospitalized? Yet another reason to breastfeed. I am so glad I did it.

  • lizard Nov 20, 2008

    I'm still breast feeding.

  • 68_polara Nov 20, 2008

    U.S. Breast-feeding Committee, this group only exists to promote Breast feeding. So like many articles these days we must consider the source and be very skeptical when research sources are not included in the article. I'm neither pro or against breast-feeding just please always consider the source of any information.

  • SomethingClever Nov 20, 2008

    Oh yeah... to follow up on my previous comment: Labor was easy in comparison to how hard (and un-anticipated) breastfeeding turned out to be... but don't get me wrong, Labor wasn't "easy" per say... mine lasted a whopping 4 and a half DAYS!! Yep, contractions started on Friday morning and my daughter was finally born on the following Tuesday morning.

  • SomethingClever Nov 20, 2008

    Yeah... to say breastfeeding is uncomfortable is a MAJOR understatement. Labor was easy... breastfeeding was HARD!!! I never anticipated it would be that way!

  • JaredsMom Nov 20, 2008

    Although my only child was formula-fed, he turned out pretty good. He is rarely sick and very smart. I do wish I would have tried breast-feeding. At the time, I didn't know then what I know now!