Breastfeeding Benefits for Heart Health

It’s February and that means it is National Heart Health Month.  We all know that a strong heart keeps our bodies on beat and in tune by circulating blood that keeps us energized and vivacious.  But did you know that breastfeeding has great benefits for both babies’ and mothers’ heart health?  It’s true and it’s on the list of the many miraculous benefits of breastfeeding.

Breast milk is the most nutritiously balanced food on the planet for your baby.  It contains every ounce of nourishment your baby requires for survival for at least the first six month of her life, and has great health advantages when continued for the full first year and beyond.  Babies who are breast fed have stronger immune systems, which is a key element for a lifetime of health and wellness.  Healthy bodies tend to stay healthy and they do this by having a strong immune system that keeps infection, illness and disease at bay.  That includes many potential heart problems or risk factors for heart problems, such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Breastfeeding Benefits for Heart HealthBut the astounding news is what breastfeeding can do for a mother’s heart…well, beyond making it melt with the bliss of bonding and nourishing her baby, that is.  Moms who breastfeed lower their risk for heart disease, diabetes, heart attack and stroke, and have lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels, two precursors to heart-related health problems.  And get this: the longer a mother breastfeeds, the more she reduces her risk of heart problems.  Incredible!

The original study that reported the phenomenal heart health benefits of breastfeeding was done by the Women’s Health Initiative, which tracked 140,000 women over the course of their reproductive years.  The results were overwhelmingly clear that breastfeeding has a huge impact on a mother’s heart, regardless of her lifestyle, weight, race or socioeconomic status.

Pregnancy increases a woman’s risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.  Combined with genetic factors, the more pregnancies a woman endures, the higher her cardiovascular risk becomes. However, breastfeeding counterbalances these risks and essentially undoes some of the physical toll pregnancy takes on women.

Additionally, breastfeeding has a calming affect on both babies and mothers.  When bodies are less stressed, they are better able to respond to everyday health and wellness demands.  For babies, a more peaceful state helps them eat better, sleep better and find a rhythm with their mothers.  And we all know, when babies are happier, mothers are happier.  Plus, breastfeeding has emotional benefits for mom including less post partum depression, a more relaxed demeanor and quicker weight loss.  Stress is a known trigger for high blood pressure and other heart problems so keeping mom relaxed and happy further contributes to her heart health.

We hope you celebrate this Heart Health Month by doing something good for your heart: breastfeeding!  You have an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve your baby’s heart health and lower your own risk of heart problems.  Take this chance to give your heart and your baby’s heart the physical and emotional heart benefits of breastfeeding.