Breastfeeding Research 2019: January

Early each year I review the breastfeeding research published the previous year and I publish those findings in a series of blogs. Enjoy!

Mothers who breastfeed for six months or more may have less fat in their livers and a lower risk of liver disease.  Journal of Hepatology, “Longer lactation reduces NAFLD [nonalcoholic fatty liver disease], January 2019.

The microstructural properties of  white matter tracts and cerebral structural connectivity are improved in association with higher exposure to breast milk in preterm infants.  Neurolmage, “Early breast milk exposure modifies brain connectivity in preterm infants,” Vol. 184, January 1, 2019, p 431-439.

Continued breastfeeding after 6 months can help to provide protection against diarrhea and cough.  International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, “Breastfeeding and the Risk of Illness among Young Children in Rural China,” Vol. 16, Issue 1, January 7, 2019.

This study showed the need for improved optimal breastfeeding practices, such as exclusive breastfeeding for babies under 6 months of age, because suboptimal breastfeeding practices are a major contributor to diarrhoea-related deaths and disability among children under five years. International Breastfeeding Journal, “Diarrhoea deaths and disability-adjusted life years attributable to suboptimal breastfeeding practices in Nigeria: findings from the global burden of disease,” January 9, 2019.

“Studies have long touted the benefits of breastfeeding for infants, including stronger immune systems and lower risk for asthma, obesity and Type 2 diabetes. But babies aren’t the only ones benefiting: Nursing also appears to provide health benefits for moms.  Research suggests women who breastfeed have a lower risk of breast and ovarian cancers. The longer women nurse, whether with one child or over the course of several, the lower their risk.  More recently, studies have found that breastfeeding also helps the mother’s heart – beyond nurturing its bond with baby, that is.  Breastfeeding has been associated with a lower risk of developing diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart disease.”  American Heart Association News, “Breastfeeding Boost: Nursing may help mothers improve heart health.”  January 10, 2019.

Breastfeeding may protect mothers against depression in later life, and having more children cuts the risk further.  Women who fed their babies naturally were almost two-thirds less likely to suffer from mental health problems. And the more children the greater was the effect, an international study found.  The risk of depression decreased by 29 per cent for each additional infant breastfed and by 9.3 per cent for each additional year of breastfeeding.  Women who breastfed for at least 47 months had 67 per cent decreased risk of depression, compared to those less than 24 months.  Journal of Affective Disorders, January 19, 2019.

Compared to never breastfeeding, breastfeeding any offspring was associated with a 30% reduction in epithelial ovarian cancer risk. That association lasted more than 30 years and was dose-respondent, and an earlier age at first breastfeeding was further associated with increased protection. Gynecologic Oncology, “Breastfeeding factors and risk of epithelial ovarian cancer,January 25, 2019.

Sheila Kippley

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