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Chloee Dula

RC 1000

Bret Zawilski

12 December 2017

What are the health benefits of breastfeeding?

Whats the first thing that comes to mind when hearing the word breastfeeding? Those

who arent familiar with its benefits might think breastfeeding as weird. But, this one thing

could end up saving your life. Most women can rattle off some benefits of breastfeeding: fewer

colds and illnesses, a way to bond with the baby, and lower risk of asthma or allergies for the

child. While all of these are correct, most never mention preventing cancer. Breastfeeding

reduces the risk of breast cancer primarily through two mechanisms: The first is the

differentiation of breast tissue; the second is the reduction of the lifetime number of ovulatory

cycles.

The Lancet published a large-scale analysis that included nearly 150,000 women from 30

different countries in the study. This experiment found that the longer a woman breastfeeds the

more they are protected against breast cancer. For every 12 months of breastfeeding, the risk of

breast cancer is decreased by 4.3 percent compared to women who have never breast fed. The

12 months can be consecutive and with one child, or spread over time with multiple children

(Van Deusen). To gain the most benefits out of breastfeed, the mother needs to breastfeed as

long as she is able, preferably 12 months.

Interestingly, the recommended time to breastfeed is six months to provide babies with a

good immune system, but breastfeeding longer will add extra protection (Rachel King). During
both pregnancy and breastfeeding, breast tissue sheds, and this shedding helps remove potential

DNA damage.

Another study published this year focused on African Americans.. Women of African

descent have an extremely high risk of cells forming the most aggressive and hardest to treat

forms of cancer. This type of cancer is called estrogen receptor-negative and triple-negative.

Breast tumors characterized by lack of estrogen receptors (ERs) are associated with an

aggressive pathology and poor prognosis. The risk of ER cancer goes up for a African American

woman after she gives birth. The findings of this study suggest that women who have given birth

and dont breastfeed are at an increased risk of this cancer. For African American women,

breastfeeding can actually decrease the risk of ER and triple - negative breast cancer. Thus, the

promotion of lactation is an effective tool for reducing the cancer from occurring in the first

place.

Why does breastfeeding reduce the risk of breast cancer? As of now no specific answer

has been given. But, through all of the research, there are theories. One theory is that since

women who breastfeed have fewer menstrual cycles throughout their lives they have less

exposure to estrogen, and estrogen has been linked some types of breast cancer. Another theory

is that breastfeeding makes the breast cells resistant to mutations that cause cancer. Another

huge factor is lifestyle. While pregnant and breastfeeding, most women live their healthiest life.

They often give up smoking, drinking, and other harmful habits for the health of their baby, and

reducing these harmful behaviors are known to reduce breast cancer.

Most of the studies conducted experimented on breast cancer, but according to the Lyda

Hill Cancer Prevention, breastfeeding can also help lower the risk for ovarian cancer. While
breastfeeding, ovulation happens less, and the less exposure to estrogen and abnormal cells, the

lower the risk of DNA mutating into cancer.

Protecting yourself from cancer is always a plus, but adding the fact that breastfeeding

can also protect your child from cancer is amazing. Breastfeeding helps strengthen a childs

immune system by passing antibodies from the milk of a women. Scroggs says: Evidence

shows that breastfeeding helps protect children from being overweight and obese in the future.

Being obese puts a person at more risk for cancers, such as, pancreatic, breast, and kidney

cancers (Cordeiro). Breastfeeding also helps protect children against leukemia.

When I asked Dr. Hawthorne, the cancer doctor in practice at McCreary Cancer Center in

Lenoir, North Carolina, about the correlation between breastfeeding and cancer reduction, he

tried to find more data. Its not a question routinely considered in cancer treatment, but it should

be. A definitive answer about the health benefits of breastfeeding would be helpful to so many

women, and would probably persuade women to breastfeed which would help them and their

babies in the long run.

After researching the question, Dr. Hawthorne told me: Breastfeeding is a reducing

agent of breast cancer because the breast cancer gene has been shown to have a central role in

regulating normal cell differentiation. Reproduction must have an influence on the risk of breast

cancer since mammary gland cells undergo cell division and differentiation during pregnancy.

The question is: How long does one mother have to breastfeed for it to actually reduce the risk of

breast cancer?

When asked, What are the benefits of breastfeeding that you have seen working in the

field of cancer? Hawthorne replied, Every nursing relationship between the mother and baby

is unique, but a couple things remain steady: There are hardships, triumphs, joy, and trials in
every single breastfeeding journey. People often get confused because breast cancer is often

diagnosed during pregnancy, but breastfeeding has been known to make breast cells more

resistant to mutations that can cause cancer. Since people are unable to breastfeed while on

chemo, Dr. Hawthorne is not around many mothers breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding may cause lumps in breast, but it is very rare that a women is diagnosed

with breast cancer during lactation (Grabowski). Lactation is the process of secreting milk and

when a lump occurs during this period of time it is generally a plugged duct or mastitis. Mastitis

is painful inflammation of breast tissue and is very common in the first month of

breastfeeding(Better information). The inflamed area may be red, swollen, unusually warm,

painful, or hard to the touch. This is very common and does not relate to breast cancer, a breast

should be tender, smooth, round, and movable.

It is not safe for the baby or the mother to breastfeed during chemotherapy. Almost all of

chemotherapy contains drugs that could potentially be harmful to a nursing baby. It is very

possible that mothers will be able to resume breastfeeding after chemotherapy is finished. It is

recommended that mothers continue to pump so they will continue to produce milk. It is

possible to breastfeed during radiation, depending on what type of radiation and where the

patient is receiving radiation(Grabowski).[AB5]

In addition to the amazing benefit of protection from cancer, breastfeeding has many

other health benefits. Breastfeeding saves lives and money. Research shows that if 90% of

families would breastfeed for six months or more, over 1,000 infant deaths would be avoided

(Making the Choice to Breastfeed.) This is backed up by the fact that breast milk is packed with

disease-fighting antibodies that protect infants from illness. This also plays into the saving

money claim since breast milk has illness- fighting substances and gives babies a healthier
immune system. Medical costs may be comparably lower for breastfed infants compared to

never breastfed infants. Fully breastfed infants usually have fewer illness which leads to fewer

hospital visits.

Women are often criticized for breastfeeding their baby in public. People say it makes

them uncomfortable to be around a women breastfeeding. But, the moment a woman pulls out a

bottle full of formula, they are criticized and question why.

How does breast milk compare to formula? Breastmilk has the ability to change to the

baby's needs. As a baby grows the needs change. Researchers think that a babys saliva has the

ability to transfer what it needs by chemicals, passing it to the mothers body through

breastfeeding. Formula is hard for a baby to digest. It normally takes time for a babys stomach

to be able to digest cows milk. Formula is made with cows milk making it near impossible for

an infant to digest it. Breastfeeding is completely free. With formula comes along bottles and

nipples. Formula costs well over $1,500. Once a baby grows it is going to need more and more

formula. Breastfeed has the ability to change and usually need the same amount of breastfeed

even when they get older. Breastfed babies are often less constipated and gassy than formula fed

babies. Lastly, breastfeeding gives the mom and baby physical contact that is so important for

newborns. Skin-to-skin contact boosts oxytocin levels. Oxytocin is a hormone that helps breast

milk flow and can calm the mother. Mothers benefit from this closeness but, it also helps the

baby feel more secure, warm, and comforted.

When women arent able to breastfeed or dont want to, thats okay to. Not every women

is made to perform such an exhausting task. In fact, some formula saves some babies lives.

Although very rare, some babies are born unable to tolerate milk of any kind.. This means that

they are unable to digest the proteins in milk and need of hypoallergenic, dairy free, or lactose
free(Making the Decision). In the cases where the woman cant breastfeed, formula still

provides the nutrients that a baby needs to be healthy.

A mothers first breast milk is called liquid gold for many reasons. First, for its deep

yellow color. Colostrum is the first milk made during pregnancy and just after birth. The

purpose of the colostrum is to protect babies from infections by the milk being filled with

nutrients, including antibodies. Being able to grow, function, and digesting things have a lot of

help from colostrum. A newborn's belly is so tiny that it only needs a tiny portion of this

colostrum at each feeding. Colostrum is also so amazing and helpful in the fact that it has the

ability to change into mature milk, it only lasts about three or four days after birth. Mature milk

has the ability to change and develop as the child needs. It looks a lot different than colostrum,

but is still packed with all the nutrients that a baby needs (Making the Decision).

Since a baby has such a tiny stomach, knowing and worrying if they are getting enough is

very common. It is so hard to tell if you dont know what to look for. Here are some tips and

tricks. Make sure babies are passing enough clear or pale yellow urine, has bowel movements,

the baby is able to switch from short sleeping periods and wakeful, alert periods. The mother's

breast may feel softer after feeding. Keep track of the babies weight, up until a baby is around 3

months old they should gain up to one ounce per day. Most all babies will lose weight in the

first couple of days after birth.

Unfortunately breastfeeding is becoming a lost art these days. The benefits of

breastfeeding are many. Breast fed babies are very efficient in regulating their feeding thereby

leading to healthy eating habits. The composition of breast milk is ideally suited for the babys

intestines and so is easily digestible. As it is very easy for your babys tummy to digest, it makes

it one of the greatest meals for your infant.


Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is unexplained death, happens during sleep.

Babies that suffer from this are normally healthy babies less than a year old. SIDS is rare, but it

is one of the most common death in babies between 1 and 12 months of age. A parent or

caregiver puts the baby in their crib for sleep and upon returning the baby has already died.

There is no explanation, but when a mom breastfeeds it lowers the risk of SIDS.

Diabetes is a disease when the body is unable to produce or respond to the hormone

insulin, resulting in abnormal metabolism of carbohydrates and elevated levels of

glucose(Mayo). This horrible disease caused around 1.5 million deaths in 2012(Mayo). To

think that breastfeeding can play a huge role in preventing a baby from having to go through

pricking their finger every so often to check blood sugar and possibly dying.

One way breastfeeding benefits the mother is it can help with postpartum depression.

Postpartum depression is a type of mood disorder associated with childbirth and my cause

extreme sadness, low energy, anxiety, irritability, etc. This can happen to both the mother and

the father(Mayo). The hormone, oxytocin, is released while nursing and helps reduce the stress

level and the risk of the mother developing postpartum depression(Cordeiro). Oxytocin is a

hormone released by the pituitary gland that causes an increased contraction of the uterus during

labor and stimulates the ejection of milk into the ducts of the breasts(Mayo).

Cancer may not mean anything to you as of right now, but at some point cancer will have

an impact on everyone's life in some way. At some point a loved one or yourself will be

diagnosed with cancer. Breastfeeding will impact most people, either by breastfeeding or by

being breast fed. There are so many amazing benefits to both the mother and child that it should

be hard to pass up. The choice to breastfeed saves lives, money, and time.
Resources

Van Deusen, Amy and Willets, Melissa. Does Breastfeeding Really Reduce Your Risk of
Breast
Cancer? Fit Pregnancy and Baby, Fit Pregnancy and Baby, 3 Apr. 2017,
www.fitpregnancy.com/baby/breastfeeding/does-breastfeeding-really-reduce-your-risk-
breast-cancer.

Breastfeeding. Susan G. Komen, Susan G. Komen, 16 Oct. 2017,


ww5.komen.org/Breastcancer/Notbreastfeeding.html.
Cordeiro, Brittany. Breastfeeding lowers your breast cancer risk. Breastfeeding lowers your
breast cancer risk | MD Anderson Cancer Center, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Oct. 2014,
www.mdanderson.org/publications/focused-on-health/october-2014/breastfeeding-breast-
cancer-prevention.html.

Grabowski, Maria. Breastfeeding during cancer treatment. UTSW Patient Care, UT


Southwestern Medical Center, 26 Oct. 2016, www.utswmedicine.org/stories/articles/year-
2016/breastfeeding-during-cancer-treatment.html.

Making the decision to breastfeed. Womenshealth.gov, 3 May 2017,


www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/making-decision-breastfeed.

Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research,
www.mayoclinic.org/.

Reviewed by the BabyCenter Medical Advisory BoardLast updated: April 2015. How
breastfeeding benefits you and your baby. BabyCenter, 20 Sept. 2015,
www.babycenter.com/0_how-breastfeeding-benefits-you-and-your-baby_8910.bc.

Better information. Better health. WebMD, WebMD, www.webmd.com/.