Does breastfeeding reduce risk for leukemia?

A recent study published in JAMA Pediatrics suggests that breastfeeding could reduce a child’s risk for leukemia, which accounts for 30 percent of all childhood cancers. According to results, children who were breastfed for six months or more had a 14-19 percent lower risk (compared to children who were not breastfed) for developing pediatric leukemia. We asked Le Bonheur Lactation Consultant Ruth Munday, RN-BC, IBLC, RLC, for her insight into these findings.

The study reviewed 18 previously published studies to make this association. While the information is exciting, more research is needed to support this statement. Other factors (other than breastfeeding) could play a role into the reduced risk for leukemia.

We do know that breastfeeding certainly has health benefits for mother and baby, including:

  • Breastfeeding certainly has health benefits for both mother and baby, including:
  • Mothers may have a decreased risk of osteoporosis and some forms of breast and ovarian cancer
  • Breastfeeding helps the uterus return to its normal size quickly and reduces bleeding after giving birth
  • It may also help some women lose the weight they gained during pregnancy.
  • Babies who are breastfed may have lower risks of allergies, colic, diarrhea, asthma, ear infections and respiratory illness.

Other reasons to breastfeed include reduced risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) and possible higher IQ levels, as well as increased immune systems. The American Academy of Pediatrics supports and recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, followed by breastfeeding in combination with solid foods until 1 year of age or beyond as long as mother and baby desire to continue.

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