Mothers who breastfed have a significantly lower risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease compared to mothers who do not breastfeed. About 5.2 million Americans get this disease according to the Alzheimer’s Association, and this disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the U. S. This is an example of a benefit that lasts long after the breastfeeding has ceased. (Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, July 23, 2013)
Researchers in Japan studied 43,000 children’s diet when infants. Obesity was cut in half at 8 years of age among children who were breastfed. About 20% of the children were exclusively breastfed for 6 months. They found exclusive breastfeeding at 6 to 7 months of age was associated with decreased risk of overweight and obesity as school children compared with formula feeding. (JAMA Pediatrics, August 2013)
Breastfeeding benefits babies’ brains. The study observed the microstructure of the brain’s white matter which contains long nerve fibers and aids communication between different parts of the brain. The exclusively breastfed group had the fastest growth in myelinated white matter by age two—-20 to 30% better—-than those infants with mixed feedings (both breastmilk and formula) and infants fed only formula. As researcher Sean Deoni from Brown University said: “We’re finding the difference [in white matter growth] is on the order of 20 to 30 percent, comparing the breastfed and the non-breastfed kids. I think it’s astounding that you could have that much difference so early.” (NeuroImage, May 28, 2013) This information provides another good reason to breastfeed for two years.
Breastfeeding could prevent many diseases for women. If American mothers nursed each child for at least one year, we could avoid about 5,000 breast cancer cases, 54,000 hypertension cases and nearly 14,000 heart attacks each year and as a result save $860 million per year. For less-than-optimal breastfeeding rates, the extra cost was $734 million for hospital stays, doctor visits and medication and $126 million for time away from work. (Obstetrics & Gynecology, June 6, 2013)