Breastfeeding beneficial for new moms

HOUSTON – Everyone has heard of babies benefiting from breastfeeding. Now studies argue breastfeeding may be equally beneficial, if not more so, for mom.

Baby Margo Barnes might have only been born yesterday, but she is working to be a pro at breastfeeding.

"It's not always easy. For the first week I would say it can be really difficult, but once you get over that hump it's an easier way to go," her mom, Krista Barnes, said.

Barnes is just learning that she is possibly getting more benefits than her daughter, which include lowering her risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

How is that possible? We asked breastfeeding specialist Dr. Pamela Berens with Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital and UT Health.

"So it may be actually that the unnatural situation is the woman not having a baby and not breastfeeding, which may increase the risk of breast cancer. It depends on how you're looking at it," Berens said. "For the ovarian cancer, it's likely a reduction in risk because you're not ovulating during the time you're exclusively breastfeeding, so the ovary is a little quieter," Berens said.

Berens also recommends breastfeeding for women who have a family history of diabetes and heart disease.

"It's changing her metabolism because she is expending an extra 500 to 600 calories a day on milk volume and that can have a beneficial effect on diseases related to metabolism," Berens said.

Cancer, diabetes and heart disease do not run in Barnes' family, but she said she'll try and keep it that way.

"All of the possible benefits would be something you heap on the pile of reasons to do it," Barnes said.