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Breast-feeding's good for babies... and mums.

Byline: DR MIRIAM STOPPARD

Mums, I'm always looking for ammunition to persuade you to breast-feed. There are rafts of research out there on how much babies benefit from a mother's milk, but now here's a new twist - you can benefit from breast-feeding too.

One study has found that breastfeeding may help protect women from a particularly vicious type of breast cancer. Another suggests that breastfeeding may act as a sort of "reset" button for metabolism after pregnancy, helping women with pregnancy diabetes to avoid becoming lifelong diabetics.

The findings complement earlier research showing that women who breastfeed have a lower risk of getting breast and ovarian cancers, Type 2 diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis. Breast-feeding may also promote cardiovascular health.

"This is a win-win as it's good for the baby too," said Dr Eleanor Bimla Schwarz, cancer professor of medicine at the University of California, US.

She cited earlier research showing that breast-feeding could spare approximately 5,000 breast cancers and 14,000 heart attacks a year in the US.

And breast-feeding, even for a brief time, could lower the risk of almost 40,000 cancer cases worldwide. Dr Marisa Weiss, the report's senior researcher and president of Breastcancer.org, said pregnancy and lactation are important steps on the breast's decades-long road to maturation, with lactation triggering changes in milk duct cells that make the breast more resistant to cancer.

She said: "The breast gland is immature and unable to do its job - to make milk - until it goes through a full-term pregnancy. Breast-feeding forces the breasts to grow up and make milk."

Women who develop pregnancy diabetes are seven times more likely to develop diabetes after pregnancy. They should be encouraged to breast-feed because it improves glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity.

Breast-feeding also improves fat metabolism, burns calories and mobilises the stores of fat gained in pregnancy.

To test whether breast-feeding lowers a woman's odds of developing diabetes, another study by researcher Erica Gunderson, of North California, identified 1,010 women who had pregnancy diabetes and monitored them closely for two years after birth.

Of the 959 mothers evaluated, 113 went on to develop Type 2 diabetes. But those who breast-fed cut their risk by half. Those who breast-fed for more than 10 months actually cut their risk of diabetes by almost 60% in the two years they were followed. Yet another good reason to feed your child yourself.

It helps protect against cancer and diabetes

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Title Annotation:Features; Opinion Column
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 29, 2015
Words:406
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