Most doctors agree that breast-feeding is best for babies’ health.
Now a large study suggests that the practice benefits mothers as well: women who have breast-fed, it says, are at lower risk than mothers who have not for developing high blood pressure, diabetes and cardiovascular disease decades later, when they are in menopause.
The benefits increase with duration of past breast-feeding, the study found.
Women who had breast-fed for more than a year in their entire lifetimes were almost 10 percent less likely than those who had never breast-fed to have had a heart attack or a stroke in their postmenopausal years.
They were also less likely to have diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol.
Breast-feeders “may be healthier women who take better care of themselves,” said Dr. Nieca Goldberg, medical director of the N.Y.U. Women’s Heart Center.
“This is a nice association,” Dr. Goldberg said of the findings, “but we don’t know from the study what the physiological mechanism is.”