The Breastfeeding Benefit You Haven’t Heard Of Yet

Photo: Mirror.Co UK
Photo: Mirror.Co UK

Want to do something today that may make aging easier on your body? Start breastfeeding, mom! Researchers in China recently found that women who breastfed may lower their risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis later in life.

But, uh, what exactly is rheumatoid arthritis? The painful form of arthritis typically causes swelling, stiffness and loss of function in your joints making it harder and way more painful to get around. And unfortunately, it’s most known for it’s appearance in women, not men. While the exact cause is still unknown, scientists believe that environmental, hormonal and genetic factors are all at play in the appearance of the disease.

Researchers analyzed data from more than 7,300 women aged 50 and older in China. The mothers were asked to complete questionnaires that asked about their health and lifestyle, including whether or not they breastfed or took birth control. They found that most of the women surveyed had at least one child and at least 95 percent had breastfed for a month (if not longer). Eleven percent used birth control. The average age for their first pregnancies was 24 and the average age of diagnosis for rheumatoid arthritis was just about 48.

They found that women who breastfed their babies were half as likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis — and the longer that she nursed, the lower her risk of developing arthritis became. The study, published in the journal Rheumatology, found an association between breastfeeding and a lowered risk of arthritis but it didn’t establish a cause-and-effect as to¬†why the risk was suddenly (and drastically) lowered.

Researchers involved in the stay say that the next step is clear: More research. They wrote, “Replication of the association between breastfeeding and lower risk of [rheumatoid arthritis] in a different population reinforces the need for further research to understand the hormonal mechanisms involved.”

Are you planning to nurse?

Plus, more from The Bump:

11 Things You Didn’t Know About Breastfeeding (but Should!)

How Breastfeeding Changes as Baby Gets Older

Breastfeeding Problems Solved