Breastfeeding lowers mother’s/baby’s risk of breast cancer

Breastfeeding reduces risk of breast cancer

There’s a good chance you’ve already heard that October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month, and if you haven’t, now you know. :) Some blogs have chosen to “Go Pink” for the month to help raise money and awareness. While I’m too timid to mess with my newly designed blog and risk breaking it, I have put an icon in my left sidebar to the Breast Cancer Site where you can click daily to help fund mammograms. Feel free to go here to add one to your site as well.

Since I am currently breastfeeding, I feel like I’m pretty darn familiar with my breasts, and I tend to neglect doing self breast exams, even though I know I should be doing them. So I’m using this post as a reminder to me and to all of us women to take the time each month to do an exam. There. I just did mine. Your turn. Go ahead. I’ll wait. :)

Also, if you missed my post back in July about fellow blogger WhyMommy and her battle with inflammatory breast cancer (a type of breast cancer with NO lumps), please take a minute to read it. It’s very important information for all women to be armed with.

Now that we’ve got those things out of the way, I also want to take this opportunity to share some information about how breastfeeding can help lower your risk of getting breast cancer, and lower your baby girl’s risk as well.


Pregnancy and Breastfeeding Lower Estrogen Exposure

You can lower your risk of developing breast cancer by breastfeeding your baby. And if your baby is a girl, her risk can also be reduced.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Pregnancy before age 30 and breastfeeding reduce a woman’s total number of lifetime menstrual cycles, which is thought to be the reason they help lower your risk. The hormone estrogen fuels 80% of all breast cancers. Since pregnancy and lactation reduce your estrogen levels, your risk is decreased each time you are pregnant and while you are nursing your baby.

How Long Should I Breastfeed?

While this is a very personal decision, studies show that breastfeeding for one and a half to two years over one’s lifetime will reduce your risk of breast cancer slightly.

A study of Chinese women found that their breast cancer incidence dropped by 63% when they breastfed for six years.

Though that tends to be longer than most choose to do so, your reduced risk can be determined by the cumulative amount of time you’ve spent breastfeeding over the course of your life. For example, if you had three babies and nursed each for six months, your cumulative breastfeeding time of one and a half years would serve to reduce your risk of developing breast cancer.

How Does Breastfeeding Help Prevent Breast Cancer?

There are several theories about how breastfeeding protects you from developing breast cancer:

  • Your lifetime exposure to estrogen is reduced, which decreases the possibility of developing estrogen-fueled breast cancer.
  • Your hormone balances are different during lactation, resulting in fewer menstrual cycles and less estrogen exposure.
  • Environmental carcinogens that are stored in fat, which makes up a great part of the breast, cannot be efficiently stored in lactating breasts.
  • Breastfeeding may cause changes to breast cells that make them more resistant to cancer-related mutations.

Not a Gold-Plated Guarantee of Protection
Even if you have several pregnancies and breastfeed each baby, you may still develop breast cancer. Having breast tissue alone puts you at risk of breast disease. Keep doing your monthly breast self exam to check for changes in your breasts. Be aware of benign lumps that can occur, such as a plugged milk duct, cyst, abscess, or fibroadenoma.

American Cancer Society. Overview: Breast Cancer – What Causes Breast Cancer? Last Updated: 09/26/2006. Breast Cancer Risk and Lifestyles
U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Breast-Feeding Best Bet for Babies
Breakthrough Breast About Breast Cancer – Prevention and Early Detection – Breastfeeding. Breastfeeding for at least one year during your life may modestly reduce your risk of breast cancer.

What I Believe: Feeding our children

what i believe

Any of you who read my blog regularly know that I am pretty opinionated passionate about a wide variety of topics. As I sat down to write this blog Wednesday night, I couldn’t decide which of my passions to discuss. I was looking for something that I have strong feelings about, but not something that would require a lot of time to write or research to back up my opinions (because I had a migraine most of the day and needed to get some good sleep).

I finally decided to write about children and food.

I’ve been doing a bit of reading the past week or so about artificial colors and other food additives and it’s got me thinking. I believe as a society, we are not feeding our children well.

Without looking up statistics, I feel safe in saying that our nation’s obesity rate is out of control. I also feel safe saying that too many children are on medication for hyperactivity and ADHD, etc.

We live in a culture where we demand so much from ourselves and our children and there are only so many hours in the day. As a result of not having enough time to make home-cooked, nutritious and healthy meals, we turn to fast food. We eat in our cars to save time. (I’m totally guilty of this and some of the other things I write about here. I’m not writing this to point fingers, but as a wake up call to all parents, myself included.)

Soda pop, candy and other junk food are readily available in many of our children’s schools. And school lunches are, for the most part, not a healthy way to go either. And even when parents pack their children’s lunches, the snack foods that many of them include are loaded with artificial colors and flavors and preservatives.

I believe that we need to slow down. I believe that we need to get back to the basics in cooking and feeding our families (as well as in many other areas). Perhaps we could start by using the crockpot for dinner if time is a big issue.

We need to teach our children to make healthy choices regarding foods (not sneak vegetables into all of their meals and assume that will help them develop healthy eating habits).

We need to be informed about the ingredients that are in the foods that we buy. Are they made from petroleum and/or tar? Have they been linked to hyperactivity? Have they been banned from other countries? Perhaps instead of medicating our children, we should try limiting their intake of food additives and see how it affects their demeanor.

I’ve been reading Healthier Food for Busy People by Jane Hersey and it’s been quite the eye-opener regarding many of the foods I eat or have eaten or given to my family in the past. I will be giving away a copy of this book in the future after I’ve had a chance to read it and review it, so stay tuned for that if you are interested in learning more. :)

I believe we have a lot of work to do and the first step is becoming more informed. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. Knowledge is power. Eat it up. (Pun intended.) ;)

If you’d like to read more “What I Believe” posts, visit The Natural Mommy (where this round she wrote about circumcision – a post I could’ve nearly written myself. Oh wait, I already did.).

The Great Virtual Breast Fest

My Wordless Wednesday post is below.

Today is the day of the Great Virtual Breast Fest sponsored by The League of Maternal Justice. A virtual nurse-in is being held at 10 a.m. (your local time) today.

It’s so frustrating to me that here we are in the year 2007 and we are having to fight for something as basic as a baby’s right to eat because of people like Bill Maher who equates breastfeeding to masturbation and Facebook who bans breastfeeding photos because they are “obscene,” and restaurants like Applebee’s who insist that breastfeeding women cover up as if they are doing something shameful.

It is my sincerest hope that by the time my children are grown, Ava will not have to deal with opposition for breastfeeding her children in public. That is why I participate in these things. In hopes of bringing about a change for future generations.

Here’s a video of us participating in the breast fest:

And here’s a link to others who participated in the nurse-in. :)

The funky funk

I feel like I’ve been in a total funk the past two weekends and I’m not exactly sure why, though I have my suspicions. My guess is that I’ve had these ideas of how I expected/wanted the weekends to go and, in both cases, they didn’t go that way at all. Be forewarned, I sound like a whiny baby ahead. I haven’t been getting as much sleep lately as I would like/need so I’m sure that’s playing a role here too.

Two weekends ago, we planned to go to a Harvest Festival at the local Waldorf school. It went from 10 til 2, but because Julian woke up really early and then needed a nap, we didn’t get there until 1. I was really bummed to have missed most of it. I still managed to get an impromptu tour of the school thanks to a friend of mine who’s son went there for summer camp, and I still had a good time, but I just wished we all had more time to enjoy it before they packed everything up.

The good news is the school is amazing and I absolutely love it, so I’m glad that we got to go and check it out. The bad news is that tuition is even more expensive than what we’re paying for preschool (think college tuition), so I don’t know if it’s something we can realistically pursue or not. Well, I know it’s not something we can pursue without me getting another income. We live pretty much hand to mouth as it is, so “finding” extra money isn’t even an option.

The rest of that weekend went something like this. We suspected that Ava had a urinary tract infection so Jody took her to urgent care on Sunday, where they were for much of the day. The culture came back negative, but they let it grow (or whatever they do) and we heard back from them a few days later that she did in fact have a UTI (e-coli to be exact). So she’s on antibiotics (and probiotics) for 10 days.

Then this weekend we had plans to go to a pick-your-own-veggies fest at a local farm with a bunch of friends from our AP group. Unfortunately Julian woke up early again and I felt that he really needed a nap before we ventured out for the day. So we missed the group but decided to go, along with my sister (Carrie), much later in the day. By the time we got to the farm the wind was racing madly and there were huge dirt clouds all over the place. We let Ava take a ride in a little train, then we headed into the corn maze where the cornstalks protected us from the flying dirt. We then go lost in the corn maze and Ava had had enough and just wanted to go home. So Jody forged his own path out of the corn maze, while we followed behind, Ava (all 36 lbs. of her) in my arms. We gave up on the veggie picking and went home. I was bummed. I’d been looking forward to bags and bags of produce, especially in light of getting my new food processor. Perhaps another day.

On Sunday we decided to take a drive up into the mountains to see and photograph the beautiful fall foliage. (Can you tell where this is going?) The drive up was really nice (if you don’t count Ava whining and crying because she was tired, but too stubborn to take a nap in the car) and the leaves were gorgeous, but once we got to the Peak to Peak Scenic Byway, they were about 90% down. That is to say, they were well past peak and all we saw were a lot of bare aspen trees among the evergreens. Disappointment. We did stop at an Open Space area and went for a little walk (not long enough to call it a hike), but it was really cold and we were hungry so it didn’t last long. Pics from our walk coming for Wordless Wednesday this week.

The silver lining was that we found a new (to us) cafe to eat at up in Nederland and had a delicious late lunch while watching snow (yes, SNOW) fall outside. :)

So all in all, I just felt that both weekends didn’t go the way I wanted them to and it bummed me out. I know that’s life with kids, and the way the cookie crumbles, and all of that, but I just felt like being selfish and having things go my way. I try to remind myself that someday my kids will no longer be living at home and I will be free to go pick vegetables to my heart’s content and take weekend treks by myself, if I like, to take all of the nature pictures that I want. It’s so hard when you are in the thick of it to remember that these days of self-sacrifice will be gone before I know it and then I will undoubtedly miss these days and wonder why I couldn’t have just been happy in the moment.