Current guidelines by the World Health Organization say that infants should be exclusively breast fed for the first six months of life in order to achieve “optimal growth, development and health.” In a 2016 report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that just 51.8% of mothers in the US meet those recommendations, although those numbers appear to be on the rise.
A new study may provide encouragement for mothers to extend their breast feeding duration.
The study was presented at Euroanaesthesia Congress 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland. It provides evidence that breast feeding for longer than two months could help reduce the pain after cesarean deliveries.
It’s a double dose of good news that breast feeding – known to be best for babies – can also benefit the mothers. Researchers found that those mothers who breast feed longer than two months were less likely to experience pain at the surgical site of the c-section.
The research team analyzed data on 185 mothers who had c-sections between January 2015 and December 2016. These women were interviewed regarding anxiety and pain level at the surgical site within 24 hours of the surgery, again at 72 hours, and at four months. Breast feeding was taken up by 87% of the group, with 58% breast feeding for a minimum of two months.
Just 8% of the mothers who breast fed for at least 2 months experienced chronic pain at the surgical site after 4 months, compared to 23% who breast fed for less than 2 months. The team also found that more than half the mothers experienced some anxiety, which might affect the risk of chronic pain.
Further study is needed, but these preliminary results certainly suggest that breast feeding for a longer duration can help protect against chronic post-cesarean pain. If breast feeding is done for two months or less, the risk for pain triples.