Boosting the Benefits of Breastfeeding


COLUMBUS, Ohio. (Ivanhoe Newswire)— For years, research has supported the benefits of breastfeeding. It helps mom recover more quickly from delivery and return to pre-pregnancy weight. And for newborns, there’s evidence breastfeeding can protect against a variety of infections and illnesses. Now a new study shows exercise during pregnancy can give a breast milk an extra boost.

Andrea Berardi wanted to give her baby a healthy head start. She made the decision to breastfeed, but it took some adjusting at first, for both of them.

“We kept trucking along. Kept trying. And, I’m really glad I did because we’ve both kind of fallen into this pattern that is really helpful,” shared Berardi.

Andrea’s healthy habits started before her baby was even born and now there’s evidence exercise may have had an unexpected pay off. Researcher Kristin Stanford and her team found that even moderate exercise during pregnancy reduces a baby’s lifelong risk of diabetes, obesity and heart disease. They started the study with a group of pregnant mice. Half had exercise wheels.

“We took moms that were exercising and moms that were sedentary, and when the pups were born, we swapped the litters,” explained Kristin Stanford, PhD.

(Read Full Interview)

The researchers found the baby mice who drank breast milk from the moms who exercised had lower body weight, reduced fat mass, and increased glucose tolerance.

“It was really exciting for us because it was like just the act of drinking that milk kind of confirmed these beneficial effects of maternal exercise,” recalled. Stanford.

Then scientists measured the physical activity of 150 pregnant and postpartum women. They found women with more steps per day had more of the human milk compound in their breastmilk known as 3SL. Researchers believe the boost in 3SL protects baby against metabolic diseases like diabetes. One more reason for moms and moms to-be to keep moving.

The Ohio State University researchers say because many women are not able to successfully breastfeed, scientists are studying whether they can isolate the 3SL compound and add it to infant formula. The scientists also partnered with researchers from the University of California, San Diego, and Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center to conduct the research.

Contributors to this news report include: Cyndy McGrath, Executive Producer & Field Producer; Kirk Manson, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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BACKGROUND: Breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways to ensure child health and survival. The World Health Organization (WHO) actively promotes breastfeeding as the best source of nourishment for infants and young children. It’s recommended that mothers initiate breastfeeding within an hour of giving birth and continue to exclusively breastfeed for the first six months of life. Breast milk gives all the nutrients needed for healthy development by containing antibodies that         help protect infants from common childhood diseases. Breastfeeding can help reduce the mother’s risk of breast and ovarian cancer, Type 2 diabetes, and postpartum depression. Mothers who return to work need a safe, clean and private place in or near their workplace to continue breastfeeding.


EXERCISE AND BREASTFEEDING: An essential part of a healthy lifestyle is exercise, along with a balanced diet. For breastfeeding moms, light to moderate physical activity is safe and beneficial. It does not affect the amount, taste, or composition of the breast milk. If you’ve had a routine delivery without any complications, you could start exercising within a few days. But, if you’ve had an episiotomy or a C-section, you’ll have to wait until your body heals. Do not begin exercise if you’re still sore after the birth of your baby, you’re bleeding heavily, or you have a breast infection. Start working out for short periods of time a few days a week, then gradually increase the activity level. Breastfeed or pump breast milk before beginning your work out. Full breasts can make exercising uncomfortable. If you tend to develop mastitis, limit upper-body exercises, especially lifting weights. The type of activity you choose is as important as the time you spend working at it. Some ideas are going for a walk or hike, taking a jog, joining a Mommy and Me program, going for a swim, or even joining a gym.


BENEFITS OF BREAST MILK FOR BABIES: A study led by researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and College of Medicine finds even moderate exercise during pregnancy increases a compound in breast milk that reduces a baby’s lifelong risks of serious health issues such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease. “We’ve done studies in the past that have shown that maternal exercise improves the health of offspring, but in this study, we wanted to begin to answer the question of why,” said Kristin Stanford, associate professor of physiology and cell biology at Ohio State’s Dorothy M. Davis Heart and Lung Research Institute. Researchers followed about 150 pregnant and postpartum women using activity trackers and found those who had more steps per day had an increased amount of a compound known as 3SL in their breast milk, which they believe is responsible for these health benefits. “The increase in 3SL were not necessarily related to exercise intensity, so even moderate exercise like a daily walk is enough to reap the benefits,” said Stanford.






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Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Kristin Stanford, PhD, Associate Professor, physiology and metabolism

Read the entire Q&A