Many new mamas worry that breastfeeding will be difficult and painful at times. As scary as being the single source of food for your little one may seem, there are some amazing health benefits (not just for babies, either) that moms should consider when they begin their breastfeeding journey. One huge advantage of breastfeeding: researchers have recently discovered that breastfeeding can potentially reduce the risk of breast cancer in women.

How does breastfeeding reduce the risk of breast cancer?

The science behind the study has shown that hormonal changes occur while feeding that delay menstrual cycles. The delay aids with lowering exposure to hormones like estrogen that promote breast cancer cell growth. A study conducted by the Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer concluded that every 12 months of breastfeeding reduced moms’ chance of breast cancer by 4.3%. Australian researchers also found that women who breastfed for more than 13 months have a reduced risk of ovarian cancer by 63% (added bonus!). “Mothers who breastfeed lower their risk of pre and post-menopausal breast cancer,"  says Rachel King, a health education specialist at MD Anderson Cancer Center. "Breastfeeding longer than the recommend six months can provide additional protection.”

Baby benefits from breastfeeding, too

Your baby benefits from breastfeeding by solely receiving breast milk. This is an advantage for your baby’s energy level, overall health and their immune system as he or she is filling up on crucial nutrients to grow and stay healthy. After the six month mark, studies show breast milk provides at least half of your infant’s needs. This is when you are able to start introducing foods while continuing to breastfeed. Moms should be aware that the health benefits are not just great for moms with breastfeeding, but also for your baby’s development and livelihood in later years! Breastfeeding your newborn can help prevent your child from being overweight or obese later towards adulthood. Also, breastfeeding can help with developing a baby’s immune system. The antibodies from your breast milk help lower the risk of ear infections, respiratory and digestive problems. Breast milk also offers immunity to developing allergies.

Breastfeeding healthy for mom and baby

Breastfeeding offers a great bonding time for mom and baby to relax and learn about one another. Also, with breastfeeding, you are eating to nutritionally support your infant, and many moms turn towards a healthier lifestyle! Eating more nutritious foods and limiting smoking and alcohol consumption not only benefit the baby but benefit the health of the mother, too.  You are protecting your child through breast milk (building their  immune system), while decreasing your chances of breast cancer at the same time — it’s the best of both worlds!