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Breastfeeding benefits mothers by promoting post-partum weight loss and reducing the risk of certain types of cancer later in life. A new study suggests that breastfeeding also supports maternal cardiometabolic health. Women who breastfed for at least six months were leaner and had lower blood pressure than those who didn’t.

Researchers conducted health check-ups on 160 mother-child pairs enrolled in Screening Tests to Predict Poor Outcomes of Pregnancy, a long-term study that assessed women’s risk for pregnancy complications. They assessed the women’s cardiometabolic health via blood pressure, body measurements, and serum metabolic markers (glucose and lipids). They determined breastfeeding duration via the children’s health records.

They found that the cardiometabolic health of women who breastfed for at least six months was considerably better than those who did not breastfeed, as evidenced by lower body mass index (BMI) and blood pressure. These differences persisted even after considering factors like BMI, socioeconomic status during early pregnancy, prenatal smoking, and maternal age during early pregnancy. In women who had experienced pregnancy complications (such as preeclampsia or gestational diabetes), breastfeeding for at least six months reduced blood pressure, insulin, and triglycerides, while increasing HDL cholesterol levels.

These findings suggest that breastfeeding for a minimum of six months benefits the cardiovascular health of mothers, particularly those who experienced pregnancy complications. They also highlight the importance of breastfeeding as a potential means to reduce the risk of cardiovascular issues in women following childbirth. However, the investigators conceded that this was a small study, potentially hindering its translatability to a broad audience. Learn more about the maternal benefits of breastfeeding in our overview article.

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