With countless benefits of breast feeding already widely known in the health community, British researchers have managed to dig up one more: it will keep you thinner over the course of your life. Vanity aside, there may be some truth to this idea.
Researchers have known for decades now that breastfeeding is extremely beneficial for the baby as it provides them with essential nutrients for growth and development. But a growing body of research has now focused on the benefits for mom – especially when it comes to weight management.
The study revealed that breastfeeding was associated a 0.22 drop in BMI among the women in their 50s and early 60s.
To conduct the study, researchers at Oxford University collected data from more than 740,000 women average age 57 who had participated in the Million Women study in England and Scotland between 1996 and 2001. Participants were asked to report how many children they had, how long they breast fed, their BMI, and any other factors that may affect their weight, such as exercise.
Researchers found that 88 percent of participants had at least one child, and 70 percent of those mothers had breastfed for at least ‘some time,’ with the average being 3.1 months per child. When compared with other mothers who also had one child but didn’t breastfeed, those who’d practiced breastfeeding had lower BMIs.
Cheryl Lovelady – a breastfeeding expert at the University of North Carolina – noted that losing baby weight within the first six months to a year post birth is critical, otherwise women may see an increased risk of carrying weight later on in life. She recommends that regardless of whether or not a mother breastfeeds, she should still focus on losing the baby weight during the post-partum period as a healthy goal.
According to DietsInReview.com’s Registered Dietitian, Mary Hartley, RD, it costs a nursing mother about 650 calories above her usual requirements to produce about 25 ounces of milk a day. “To meet this need,” she says, “the Institute of Medicine recommends eating 500 extra calories a day. The remaining 150 calories are drawn from fat stores accumulated during pregnancy.”
Mary also notes the importance of these calories being from nutritious foods, especially ones that are high in protein and iron such as meat, fish, poultry, beans and legumes. These foods should ideally also be high in calcium, like milk, cheese, fortified cereals, and green leafy vegetables. “Without restricting their calorie intake,” says Mary, “breastfeeding mothers usually lose 1 to 4 pounds per month.”