Breastfeeding is not just good for babies -- it also has health benefits for moms, new research suggests.
Mothers who breastfed rather than bottle-fed their children for the recommended amount of time have a lower risk of developing hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, and heart disease later in their lives, according to a report published in The American Journal of Epidemiology.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding babies for the first six months, followed by a combination of breast milk and solid foods until the infant is 1 year old. Breastfeeding is believed to influence babies' immune system development, protecting them against infectious disease and ailments such as diarrhea and middle-ear infections.
Women who did not breastfeed or did so for less than the recommended period of time were 22 percent more likely to be diagnosed with high blood pressure over a period of 14 years, the new research shows.
"If this is a causal relationship, then taking away barriers to breastfeeding could make a difference in women's health later on," said lead researcher Dr. Alison M. Stuebe of the University of North Carolina.