Breastfeeding has plenty of great benefits for babies, but it can also help moms, too. A new study shows that breastfeeding could lower moms’ stroke risk.

A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that postmenopausal women who breastfed at least one baby had a 23 percent lower risk of stroke later in life compared to women who didn’t breastfeed. The researchers analyzed data from 80,191 participants in the ongoing study, the Women’s Health Initiative. All of the women in the study had birthed one or more babies.

Photo: Wes Hicks via Unsplash

Researchers found that among black women especially, the risk was lowered most significantly, with a nearly 50 percent decrease. The study also concluded that the amount of time spent breastfeeding was also significant. The risk of stroke was 19 percent lower for women who breastfed for one to six months and 26 percent lower for women who breastfed for 13 months or more, compared against women who never breastfed.

“The take-home advice to new moms is that they should include breastfeeding as part of their birthing plan and they should try to continue for at least six months so they and their baby can share the optimal benefits of breastfeeding,” study leader Lisette Jacobson of the University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita said.

But what if you can’t breastfeed? There are plenty of women who struggle to breastfeed for a variety of reasons. Not to worry: Jacobson some advice for these moms, too: “Those who cannot breastfeed should remember that there are many factors that protect against stroke, including getting enough exercise, choosing healthy foods, not smoking and keeping blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar under control.”

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Solid advice, no matter how you feed your babies.

—Shahrzad Warkentin

 

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