How Breastfeeding Can Lower Risk of Breast Cancer

Even with the rise of nutrition technology for highly specialized commercially available breast milk, nothing still compares to the natural process of a mother doing breastfeeding. While it is already scientifically proven that breastfeeding is good for the baby it is actually also great for the mom! That’s right, it actually decreases the risk of breast cancer by 4.3% for every 12 months a mother does breastfeeding. Not only is there a lower risk of breast cancer, but it is also found that mothers who breastfeed have a reduced long-term risk for cardiovascular diseases, ovarian cancer, and even diabetes. The amount of risk reduction is directly proportional to the duration of breastfeeding.

When Should I Stop Breastfeeding?

Some might find it a bit too much to go for the 12 months straight of breastfeeding. To clarify, this does not necessarily mean one has to exclusively provide milk only from one’s breasts. In fact, a good number of mothers have gone through supplementation with commercial baby milk when they find that they are unable to provide the volume needed for their child.

As to the total months in duration, perhaps one can consider at least breastfeeding for six months minimum. This is the required amount of time to get the significant benefits of breastfeeding. However if you find yourself comfortable going for the 12 months or even more, it is encouraging to know that women who breastfed more than 13 months were 63% less likely to develop ovarian cancer.

Breastfeeding ALSO Protects Your Child from Cancer

This statement might be something you have read somewhere to promote breastfeeding. While this is true it needs to be taken with more context instead of thinking that your breastmilk is an immunity booster against cancer. The correlation here is that when children naturally breastfeed it is likely that the child is less prone to developing obesity and in effect, less prone to cancers linked with obesity. What is more directly correlated is that breast milk provides immunity for your children because you will transfer antibodies your body is already producing through breastfeeding. There’s also another research that says the longer a child is breastfed, the less likely to develop allergies. 

Can I Breastfeed When I Have Breast Cancer?

Now in case you already have developed breast cancer while your baby is still of breastfeeding age, there are now some things you need to understand before you decide between breast and bottle. 

First of all, please know that breastfeeding is STILL possible for some cases of breast cancer. Ultimately your doctor will give you the recommendation but here we will give some idea as to what is considered in the recommendation. 

These are some cases where breastfeeding is not possible:

  • If you are in immediate need for chemotherapy, hormone therapy or any treatment (medication) that alters your body chemistry
  • If you need surgery. You want to lower blood flow into the breast to prevent infection.
  • If you need radiation therapy

After treatment, sometimes a doctor can give a green flag where you can resume breastfeeding. There are cases where mothers were able to resume breastfeeding. However, in case you get confused about the statement above about breast cancer prevention, it is important to know that breastfeeding DOES NOT CURE breast cancer. Thankfully breast cancer is one of the more treatable forms of cancer that is why there is a strong campaign on early detection of breast cancer to save lives. 

In case you want your child to continue having breast milk from you, you can do breast pumping to store your milk safely for the duration where you are having your treatment done. Do this BEFORE anything is done that alters your blood chemistry. Don’t be disappointed or discouraged if you are not able to produce much milk after surgery, chemo, or radiation therapy. It’s possible your body is still in need of more time to recover before normal functions return. Thankfully these days Lactation consultants are around to guide you through the process in getting back in the flow of milk production. 

Talk To Your Doctor

Especially where your baby is of concern, you need to communicate with your doctor how you feel, how your body feels and anything that is observed as a result of the treatments you underwent. Breastfeeding is an important priority but ensuring the safety of your baby ranks higher in that priority. You can safely breastfeed your baby but only if the doctor says you can and if it means taking a few more tests for your bloodworks, it is always better to be safe than sorry. 

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