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Breastfeeding helps you fight breast cancer

Breastfeeding helps you fight breast cancer
Highlights

Breast cancer is something one cannot predict but it doesn't mean it can't be avoided. While awareness stands...

Breast cancer is something one cannot predict but it doesn't mean it can't be avoided. While awareness stands relevant to inform the masses, a cure that has been discovered and confirmed is breastfeeding.

Over the years, there has been a shift of mothers being less involved in breastfeeding their babies while trying to find a balance between motherhood and their professional life. Skipping this lactation phase has proven to be problematic, not only for the child but also for the mother as it puts the mother at a higher risk of breast cancer, diabetes and many other serious health conditions.

A mother's priority is to nurse her baby with the protective layer of breastmilk, but it is not only a wonder tonic for baby's immunity but also safeguards her from several chronic ailments. The yellowish colour milk or colostrum is the most essential baby food as it lowers the risk of developing Alzheimer's in mothers and strengthens the developing lungs of the child.

Breastfeeding is essential for the wellbeing of a newborn, especially in the first six months. A breast-fed child is fourteen times less likely to die as opposed to non-breastfed child. The colostrum of a nursing mother enhances the immunity of a child while the milk itself contains nutrient values that prove to be disease resistant.

Breastfeeding is not only beneficial for the child but also for the mother. According to studies conducted by Medela, breastfeeding increases the mother's attention to her infant's needs, accelerates uterine involution after birth, reduces the risk of hemorrhage, helps the mother re-gain her pre-pregnancy weight and decreases the risk of ovarian and breast cancer.

Although breast cancer rates have been in the past relatively lower in India, this no longer holds true. Indian women, particularly urban women, are greatly affected owing to their lifestyles, late motherhood trends and succumbing to social and professional stress to avoid breastfeeding.

According to Breastcancer. org, a nonprofit organisation founded in 2000, breastfeeding can lower breast cancer risk, especially if a woman breastfeeds for longer than one year. Breastfeeding protects breast health as women who breastfeed have fewer menstrual cycles throughout their lives, and therefore less exposure to estrogen, which has been shown to fuel some types of breast cancers.

Additionally, breastfeeding makes breast cells more resistant to mutations that can cause cancer. But what we tend to overlook is that there are lifestyle factors that often come into play: for example, pregnant or breastfeeding women tend to make certain lifestyle choices like give up smoking and drinking, eating healthier foods, and in general take care of themselves better.

These behaviors are known to reduce your breast cancer risk too. The high hormone levels required for lactation appeared to affect cell growth to protect the breast against changes that would otherwise make the breasts vulnerable to breast cancer.

Just as soon as breastfeeding comes to a halt, the body gets rid of damaged cells that are potentially cancerous. In addition, the fact that women cease to ovulate during the time of producing milk also contributes in protection against the possibility of breast or ovarian cancer.

In today's day and age with technology changing the face of healthcare, there are plenty of options for mothers who choose breastfeeding over formula feeding, but due to some reason cannot directly breastfeed. Lactating mothers can use breast pumps available in the market to express breast milk even when they cannot directly breastfeed and ensure the well-being of both mother and child.

Dr Roya Mankar, Obstetrician, BPNI.

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