Faith Bontrager, RN, BSN

Faith Bontrager, RN, BSNFaith's passion in nursing is to help people find the options they need to discover their personal path to optimum health. Ask her friends and they will tell you that their appreciation of nutritious food has grown through Faith. About Faith Bontrager, RN, BSN

"Public health begins with breastfeeding."
-Alison Stuebe, MD, Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among women. Breastfeeding may be able to help decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease. Less than half of US women are still breastfeeding their babies at 6 months.
-Breastfeeding Report Card, CDC


A Healthy Pregnancy

Breastfeeding: A Woman's Health Issue

Most of our readers are aware that breastfeeding is THE standard for good infant nutrition and that it has many health benefits for babies. You may or may not be aware that her breastfeeding choice may significantly impact a woman's future health.

Previous studies have shown many health benefits for women who breastfeed. They have lower rates of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, type 2 diabetes, and osteoporosis. New research (J Ob & Gyn 2010:115;41-48) shows women who do not breastfeed their babies are more likely to have vascular changes associated with future cardiovascular disease.

Researchers studied a group of about 300 women aged 42 -52 who had all given birth to at least one child. The women were asked about breastfeeding and grouped into three groups:

1) Those who had never breastfed a baby
2) Those who breastfed any baby for less than three months
3) Those who breastfed each child for 3 months or longer

The women were assessed for subclinical signs of heart disease. The group of women who had never breastfed had higher blood pressure, more plaque in the carotid artery, and more calcification in the aorta. All of these measures have been associated with later development of heart disease.

Could it be that the changes were because women who choose to breastfeed a baby might also take better care of themselves? It is true that the women who did not breastfeed were more likely to smoke and less likely to eat a healthy diet. However, even after results were adjusted to account for other traditional risk factors, such as high blood pressure, poor diet, less physical activity, cholesterol levels and other known cardiovascular risk factors, women who had never breastfed a baby were four times as likely to have calcification of the aorta as women who consistently breastfed their children.

It has been my experience that many women do not start breastfeeding or do not continue with breastfeeding because of challenges or lack of support. Breastfeeding comes easy for some mother-baby pairs and more difficult for others, but the health benefits for baby and mother are worth the effort.

If you need help with breastfeedin, contact:

La Leche League Lactation Consultants: Find them online or ask your obstetrician, baby's pediatrician, or the hospital where you gave birth for a referral.

Breastfeed your baby - its good for your heart!