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A recent study suggests that breastfeeding for six months offers protection against heart disease for new mothers for at least three years. This is particularly beneficial for women who’ve experienced a challenging pregnancy, as it reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD) in the future.

Breastfeeding linked to health benefits to the mother

The study by University of Adelaide researchers in South Australia involved 160 breastfeeding mothers and later extended to 280 women and their children in collaboration with Flinders University. The research, known as the Screening Tests to Predict Outcomes of Pregnancy (STOP) study, spanned from 2018 to 2021 and included follow-up health checks after childbirth.

According to findings of the study published in the International Breastfeeding Journal found that breastfeeding for a minimum of six months led to reduced blood pressure and improved body-weight recovery for up to three years post-childbirth.

The Pregnancy Health and Beyond (PHaB Lab) research group at Flinders, led by Professor Claire Roberts, found that women with pregnancy complications experienced positive outcomes in a study. After three years postpartum, these women showed improved cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure.

Exclusive breastfeeding for six months lowers hypertension risk

Professor Roberts explains that it means breastfeeding improves cardio metabolic risk factors for new mothers that may be at risk of metabolic and cardiovascular diseases. There is a link between pregnancy complications, later cardiovascular disease risk, and the potential impact on children’s metabolic health. The study highlights the World Health Organization’s recommendation of exclusive breastfeeding for up to six months, and breastfeeding for over 12 months, as a way to benefit babies’ health while also significantly reducing diabetes and chronic hypertension risk in women.

University of Adelaide’s Dr Maleesa Pathirana said that they found that women that had breast fed for at least six months had low BMI, mean arterial pressure and central blood pressure and lower blood pressure in general. She explained that women who experienced significant pregnancy complications such as gestational hypertension, gestational diabetes, and preeclampsia and breastfed for a minimum of six months, exhibited notable enhancements in blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and insulin levels.