Does knowing nursing’s maternal benefits affect the decision to breastfeed?

January 1, 2019

A survey of more than 700 women who had given birth to at least 1 child found that about one-third of women who were aware that breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast cancer thought this knowledge had contributed to their decision to breastfeed.

A survey of more than 700 women who had given birth to at least 1 child found that about one-third of women who were aware that breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast cancer thought this knowledge had contributed to their decision to breastfeed. More than half the surveyed women who were not aware of this risk reduction indicated that knowing how breastfeeding benefits their own health could have influenced how they feed their infant.

The online survey had 20 questions that were designed primarily to assess mothers’ knowledge of breast cancer risk reduction from breastfeeding. About 56% said they were aware that breastfeeding reduces cancer risk, with Caucasians significantly more likely to have this knowledge than African Americans or other races. Women who knew the benefit breastfed longer than those who did not: 13.2 months versus 9.3 months, with a greater proportion of Caucasian women than African American women breastfeeding for longer than the recommended 6 months.

Interestingly, only 16.6% of women who were aware of how breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast cancer got this information from healthcare providers. Instead, they obtained it through articles, books, or the Internet (Ganju A, et al. Breastfeeding Med. October 23, 2018. Epub ahead of print).

Thoughts from Dr Burke

 

The association between reduced risk of breast cancer and breastfeeding first was described in 1926. The effect is particularly striking in aggressive, difficult-to-treat, triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC), a form that is more common in African American women. These authors cite other work that shows that increased breastfeeding in African American women could decrease prevalence of TNBC by two-thirds in this population. For the sake of both the women and their babies, new and prospective mothers should hear this information from obstetricians and pediatricians, not just from magazines and the Internet.

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