MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- More women in the United States are choosing to breastfeed their kids. But new research from the University of Minnesota is shedding some light on the overall health of pregnant women.
A study conducted by the School of Public Health reveals one-third of women entering pregnancy are in poor health. The study also found these women are 30 percent less likely to breastfeed than mothers without health complications.
I talked with the lead author of the study, Dr. Katy Kozhimannil, an assistant professor in the School of Public Health.
She said we've already learned a lot about the benefits of breastfeeding. It bolsters the baby's immune system, and it helps the mom burn more calories and lowers her risk of developing certain cancers.
This new study shows a disturbing trend about a subset of new mothers. They are less likely to try breastfeeding, and if they do, they often don't stick with it.
The study looked at 2,400 women from across the country who gave birth between 2011 and 2012.
It found about a third of them were either obese, had diabetes or high blood pressure.
"We also looked at statistically who are these women, and we found they were likely to be non-white, more likely to be low-income, to have lower education, unmarried and without a partner, and receiving public health insurance," Kozhimannil said.
She says without a good support system, these women were less inclined to breastfeed.
"These are a population of people who have a variety of challenges in their lives as they go into pregnancy and move forward. It's also a time when a lot of people can learn to overcome their challenges and build a better and healthier life for themselves and their families."
She hopes the study's findings will encourage the medical community to work harder to support pregnant women with challenges.
"Simply counselling women to breastfeed is not enough," she said. "Telling women that it's good for them and their babies is not enough, without adequate support as well. There might be special support that women with complex pregnancies need."
She says it's important because they are missing out on the benefits of breastfeeding.
"There's something kind of magical about it," she said.
Kozhimannil said that under health reform there is more help available to new mothers who are attempting to breastfeed.
It's quite possible that you don't have to pay the cost of a breast pump and the supplies that go along with it. And you can get help learning how to breastfeed your baby after you leave the hospital, at no cost.
There's a long list of benefits of breastfeeding.
It saves a lot of money. And there's evidence of lower rates of infection, asthma, allergies and obesity in the children.
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