A new study out of Britain says there’s evidence that breastfeeding might actually contribute to lower body weight later in life. According to the findings, just six months of breastfeeding could lower the risk of obesity for up to 30 years in the future. Which isn’t entirely surprising–people are always touting the benefits of breastfeeding when it comes to post-baby weight loss–but it is interesting to hear that it can also help with weight management long after the kids have gone to college.
The study analyzed data from 750,000 women from ages 50 to 75, including information about when and for how long they breastfed (if at all). Overall, the act of breastfeeding was associated with lower BMIs over time; for every six months a woman breastfed a baby, their BMI decreased by about one point.
Surprisingly, the researchers connected the benefits of breastfeeding and weight reduction to the greater problem of obesity in the Western world:
Even a modest 1 percent reduction in body mass index in western countries would substantially reduce the number of obesity-related diseases and their costs.
A woman’s body can burn from 380-600 calories a day when it’s making milk. And there are many other tremendous benefits of breastfeeding for both mothers and babies, benefits that range from increased immunity for babies, links to higher IQs later in life, and increased oxytocin production in mothers. But Dr. Alison Stuebe, a professor at the University of North Carolina who researchs breastfeeding and weight loss, is not completely convinced of the long-term connection:
The question that this kind of study can’t answer is, Is it breastfeeding that makes you skinnier? Or is it that the type of person who breastfeeds is also skinnier in her 50s?
Of course, there are many, many factors that make up body composition and weight-loss: breastfeeding is just one small part of that. And we know, we know: breastfeeding is a personal choice. I’m not judging any woman who chooses not to breastfeed her baby, for whatever reason. If you don’t, your kid will probably be fine, and you’ll probably lose weight, too. But if you’re looking for another reason to add to the long list of why to breastfeed, the fact that it may make you thinner in 30 years certainly won’t hurt, right?