Add lower blood pressure to the many health benefits attributed to breast feeding. Studies now show that babies and moms both may have healthier hearts. Children who were breastfed as infants may have lower blood pressure than those who are bottle fed, and that benefit may last well into adulthood researchers say. Moms who breastfeed may also be at lower risk for high blood pressure as well as other diseases.
Breastfeeding benefits for babies
Researchers in a 2004 study conducted in the United Kingdom and published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, found that babies who were breast fed had a slightly lower blood pressure than those babies who were exclusively fed baby formula. The longer the baby was breastfed, the greater the increase. Each three months of breastfeeding was, on general, associated with a 0.2 mm Hg reduction in systolic blood pressure.
The researchers speculated that the lower blood pressure might be attributed to the nutrients in breast milk, the fact that babies who are breast fed tend to consume less sodium, and that breastfed babies tend not to be overweight. The researchers further speculated that breastfeeding might protect against heart-related deaths in adulthood.
Breast feeding benefits for moms
A 2004 study published in the journal, Obstetrics & Gynecology, found that women who breastfeed are at lower risk for developing high blood pressure as well as other diseases once they hit menopause. Researchers found that post-menopausal women who had breast fed for a year or longer, over their entire lives, were about 10 percent less likely than those who had never breast fed, of having heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, high cholesterol or hypertension. Even breast feeding for just one month appeared to confer some of these benefits.
What if you already have hypertension?
If you plan to breastfeed your baby, check with your doctor and your child’s doctor because most prescription drugs for hypertension, while safe for you to take while breastfeeding, will get into your milk to some extent. Some may also impact your milk supply.
Other breastfeeding benefits
According to the Department of Health & Human Services Office on Women’s Health, breast feeding has a long list of health benefits including:
• It is rich in nutrients and antibodies
• Its nutrients adjust as the baby grows and his/her needs change
• It is easier to digest than formula
• Babies who are breastfed have lower risk of asthma, obesity and Type 2 diabetes as well as lower respiratory infections
• It saves money on formula and feeding supplies
• Breastfeeding moms miss less work because their children tend to be healthier