We know the benefits that breastfeeding offers to mothers and babies – that it plays an important role in the health of their newborn baby and has been linked to the improvement in avoiding infant mortality, infections and making a vital contribution to the baby’s overall wellbeing. There are also pronounced benefits for the mother as well: a woman who breastfeeds burns an estimated 500 calories a day, equivalent to a three-mile run.
But according to a medical centre in America, one vital health benefit is being underplayed: the link between breastfeeding and breast cancer. And the people who put the study together feel that that needs to change.
What we know about breastfeeding and breast cancer
According to a pooled analysis of data culled from 47 different studies in the US, there is a definite link between breastfeeding and improving the odds of not developing breast cancer. The mass study concluded that mothers who breastfed for a year over their lifetime (whether it be for one or more baby) were slightly less likely to get breast cancer compared to mothers who had never breastfed.
Furthermore, mothers who breastfed for a lifetime total of two years got about twice the benefit of those who breastfed for a total of one year, and mothers who breastfed for a lifetime total of more than two years got the most benefit.
Too many women kept in the dark
There are many benefits of breastfeeding for both mother and baby, but according to a study conducted by the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, a mere 59 percent of women who had already given birth were aware of the link between breastfeeding and a reduction in breast cancer.
Amongst women questioned in the study who did breastfeed and were aware of the link, 38 percent claimed that this knowledge influenced their decision. Most importantly, when the women in the study who had not breastfed were asked if awareness of the link would have caused them to switch from bottle to breast, nearly 60 percent claimed that if they had known, it would have influenced their decision to breastfeed.
Online communities are more effective than health bodies?
When the study team delved into how women had discovered the benefits of breastfeeding in helping to fend off cancer, they were surprised to discover that a mere 16 percent of women had received this news from their doctor or GP when they were pregnant or recovering from childbirth – and online forums and groups are just as effective in spreading the news. As we know, the internet community is just as good in spreading misinformation as it is the truth, and people are far more likely to listen to a medical professional than a random on Facebook, as the study team were very keen to stress that. But it’s clear that doctors, GPs, midwives and medical bodies are missing a trick here.
We all know that breastfeeding is a personal and sometimes complicated decision, with all manner of factors coming in to play. And while we know that not all mothers can breastfeed, or have valid reasons why they choose not to, it makes sense that every pregnant woman is given the full picture of the potential benefits, so they can make a more informed decision.