Breastfed babies not only have a lower risk of catching infections, asthma and diarrhea, but also have a higher resistance to cancer. Breastfeeding also reduces the risk of developing breast cancer. There is growing evidence to suggest that breastfeeding helps in reducing the risk of developing uterine and ovarian cancer too.
Colostrum, also known as the first milk, has high concentrations of antibodies that help protect the mucous membranes in the throat, lungs, and intestines of the infant.
Breastfeeding also helps reduce the incidence of post-delivery depression. Also, breastfed babies have a lower risk of a condition referred to as the sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
There is another misconception that breast cancer could be transmitted through the milk of the mother but there is no evidence to substantiate that. Breastfeeding should however not be given while the mother is receiving chemotherapy as the drugs can harm the baby.
For every 12 months of breastfeeding, the risk of breast cancer decreases by 4.3%, compared to women who did not breastfeed. Risk decreases by 3.4% for each child breastfed, compared to women who did not breastfeed.
Breastfed also protects babies from gaining excess body fat. Among adults, excess body fat links to increased risk of different cancers. Breastfed may delay the mother’s menstrual cycle after delivery. Breastfed lowers the levels of hormones in the mother’s body that are linked with the increased risk of cancer. Breastfed babies less likely to become over weight as they grow older. Elements that pass from mother to baby – such as the appetite-regulating hormone leptin may play a role in reducing cancer risk.
The hormones estrogen and progesterone have been linked to tumors. Breastfeeding acts as a natural contraceptive, lowering hormone levels which extends the women’s menstrual cycle. The hormone called oxytocin, which tells the body to produce more milk during feeding is one of the protective effect for the mother’s.
Pregnancy before 30 years of age and breastfed reduce a woman total number of lifetime menstrual cycles. Breastfeeding may cause changes to breast cells that make them more resistant to cancer-related modifications.
World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) is being celebrated every year from August 1 to 7 in more than 120 countries to encourage the breastfeeding and improve the health of babies and mothers around the world.