How breastfeeding could save your life
MOTHER'S milk is not only good for babies, it holds another amazing secret - it can save women's lives by dramatically cutting the risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
Early life nutrition experts are using Mother's Day to warn Australian mums they may be placing themselves at increased risk of cancer because they stop breast feeding too soon.
And the Australian Breastfeeding Association is calling for Medicare rebates for lactation consultants to help women struggling with breastfeeding.
A major review of breastfeeding studies has calculated that women who breast feed for 12 months reduce their risk of breast cancer by up to 26 per cent and their risk of ovarian cancer by up to 37 per cent.
They also cut their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by 32 per cent.
Experts are not sure how breastfeeding works to prevent cancer but suggest it's because it lowers levels of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone that are linked to tumours.
The World Health Organisation recommends mothers exclusively breast feed their babies for the first six months of their life because breast milk contains good bacteria and helps babies fight viruses and infections.
While 95 per cent of Australian women leave hospital breast feeding their baby just 39 per cent are exclusively breastfeeding their babies by the time they are 3 months old.
And only one in six mothers are still exclusively breastfeeding their babies by the time they are six months old.
The Early Life Nutrition Council has warned that babies born today could have a shorter lifespan than their parents and suffer more disease all because of what goes on in the first 1000 days of their life.
In new dietary guidelines for mothers and babies it launched late last year it called for babies to be breast fed exclusively for the first six months and then for as long as possible.
Chair of the Early Life Nutrition Coalition Professor Peter Davies said:"Breast milk is truly amazing and breastfeeding has never been more important as a preventive health measure for Mum and baby."
"The message on Mother's Day is simple - breastfeeding is good for mums and babies and the longer they breastfeed after the introduction of complementary foods the less risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers."
Australian Breastfeeding Association spokeswoman Louise Duursma said research has found a dose-related effect of breast feeding on reducing a woman's risk of cancer.
"The more you feed the more you reduce the incidence of breast or ovarian cancer," she said.
Lack of proper support for breastfeeding mums is behind the dramatic drop off in breastfeeding after they leave hospital, she said.
Most doctors receive little training on breastfeeding and a recent questionnaire of GP registrars knowledge of breastfeeding found that 40 per cent of items were answered incorrectly by the majority of participants.
A review of social media mother discussion groups has also found they give poor and often harmful breastfeeding advice given to mothers, she said.
Ms Duursma says Medicare should provide a rebate to cover the cost of a lactation consultant for women having trouble with breast feeding.
Too many women lose confidence in their ability to breast feed because they are told they are not producing enough milk and the people advising them don't understand normal baby behaviour, she said.
TOP FIVE REASONS TO BREAST FEED
1. Breastfed babies are less likely to suffer from diarrhoea, respiratory illness and middle ear infections and childhood leukaemia.
2. Breastfed babies have a reduced risk of becoming overweight later in life
3. Breast milk contains complex sugars that support good gut bacteria
4. Breastfeeding reduces the mother's risk of breast and ovarian cancer
5. Breastfeeding reduces the mother's risk of Type 2 diabetes