We can officially add cancer prevention to the long list of reasons for new mothers to breastfeed their infants. The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) released a new report in honor of Breastfeeding Awareness Month that suggests breastfeeding may help prevent cancer in both mom and baby. While the report didn't specify a singular causative reason, experts at AICR suspect a few factors are at play.
First, new mothers don't experience regular menses and hormonal fluctuations while breastfeeding, leading to less exposure to hormones like estrogen that have been linked to breast cancer. The natural process of tissue turnover post-lactation may help new mothers slough DNA-damaged cells from their bodies, giving them the opportunity to generate new ones. New babes benefit, too, as breastfed children tend to weigh less throughout their lives, avoiding cancer risk factors like obesity.
It's also important to note that the length of time new mothers breastfeed matters: Each five-month increment a new mother breastfed enjoyed a 2 percent decreased risk of breast cancer. If anything, to us, this is even more reason for employers to offer new mothers the support they need, from better maternity-leave policies, lactation rooms at work, and flexible work-from-home policies.