Can breast-feeding reduce your risk?

One Wig Stand chats with Lebanese breast-feeding specialist Nadiya Dragan El-Chiti about her breast-feeding seminars and on her perspective about how breast-feeding may reduce the risk of breast cancer in some women:

1. Tell us a bit about your breast-feeding seminars in Lebanon: How long have you been working on this and why are you interested in it?

My work in Lebanon as a breastfeeding specialist is quite new actually. I started helping mothers with breastfeeding at the end of 2010, and in February 2011, I had my first public seminar on the essentials of breast-feeding.

Since then, I’ve had at least one seminar per month on the different aspects of breast-feeding, such as how to start breast-feeding properly, how to manage working and breast-feeding and how to overcome the most common problems a mother can face while nursing her child. My most recent seminar was on June 25 for breast-feeding mothers and medical professionals, however, I also make home visits to new mothers who’ve recently given birth and advise them through the breast-feeding process or problems they might be facing. I’ve also recently started writing for “Moms and to Be” magazine as a breastfeeding specialist.

I really love what I’m doing and seeing happy mothers with breastfed babies is the biggest motivation to keep doing what I’m doing.

Image Source: Babble

2. How have responses been to your breast-feeding initiative?

They’ve been great. People leave my seminars feeling content and confident after having learned how to successfully breast-feed their babies, as well as how to prevent and treat the most common problems faced while breast-feeding. Oftentimes, mothers would approach me after the seminars and thank me for helping them feel more at ease about breast-feeding, and instead of being afraid of it, they now look forward to it.

3. In your opinion, why are women breast-feeding less these days?

I strongly believe it is due to a lack of information and support from our society, as well as from the medical world. If someone were to explain to mothers before birth how lactation works and what to expect soonafter the baby is born, most of the breast-feeding problems would can be avoided all together. Often a new mother just needs a little encouragement and reassurance that what she is doing is right. Her milk in fact is plenty for her baby’s nutrition. Instead, society around us makes her question whether her milk is as good as the formula.

Although there are times when a mother may face difficulties while breast-feeding, these problems can easily be solved with the right direction from a person experienced in breast-feeding management. Unfortunately, pediatricians and gynecologists are often not trained in this particular matter so the most popular advice is to start supplementing with formula or to stop breast-feeding entirely.

It is sad because a mother’s milk is a superior infant food and provides numerous benefits for the child, as well as for the mother, and no formula can ever come close to imitating the miraculous quality and value of it. Information, coupled with the right support and professional direction is the key to a successful breast-feeding experience, in my opinion.

4. What are the major benefits of breast-feeding?

The benefits for the mother and the child are countless.

The most prominent benefits for the baby are: increased chance of survival, strong immunity and protection from ear infections, respiratory diseases, allergies, diarrhea; reduced risk of cancers later in life; higher IQ; stronger bonding with the mother; superior nutrition matching the needs of the particular baby; healthy digestive track; better jaw and speech development later in life.

For the mother, the benefits are: contraction of uterus after birth and prevention of excessive bleeding, loss of weight, less work and easier mothering (breastfeeding saves mother 150 hours a year compared to a bottle-feeding mother), prevention of “baby blues” post-partum depression due to oxytocin hormone release while breastfeeding, delay of new pregnancy, less expenses and less trips to the doctor with the sick child, stronger connection with the baby and better mothering skills, decrease in risk of breast, uterus and cervical cancers.

Other benefits of breast milk are constantly being discovered as well: Just recently researchers found 3 types of stem cells present in it! Formula is only an imitation – a rough copy – of breast milk and the only part it was able to copy until now has been providing nutrition for the baby. Nothing else. In emergency cases where access to clean water and formula are limited, breast-feeding has been shown to save a baby’s life. And why? Because breast milk is always ready, at the right temperature and never needs sterilizing!

[More about the value of breast-feeding here]

5. Do Lebanese women breast-feed more than in other Western countries? If so, why do you think that is so? 

Unfortunately, recent statistics showed that Lebanon, as a developing country, is catching up rapidly with the developed Western countries that don’t breast-feed as much anymore. Lebanon has the lowest rate of breast-feeding compared to the highest rates of breast cancer. The economical growth and prospect always results in a society more inclined towards formula feeding and less trusting of the ability of the mother’s body to provide the right nutrition for her baby.

6. Do doctors and medical specialists agree about the reduced risk of breast cancer for women who have breast-fed, or been breast-fed?

Yes, nowadays the medical community around the world agree that breast-feeding plays a role in reducing the risk of developing breast cancer for both the mother and child. However, the exact percentages vary from one research study to other, based on the country.

7. Does the age of the woman breast-feeding matter in how much it lowers her risk of developing breast cancer at a later stage?

Yes, previous research used to suggest that the age of a breast-feeding mother mattered, however, newer findings have revealed that despite the age of the mother, the reduced risk of developing breast cancer does not vary.

[An article discussing the link between breast-feeding and lowered breast cancer risk can be found here]

8. If breast-feeding does reduce the risk of breast cancer, than what could be another cause for the increased rate of women diagnosed with breast cancer in our region compared to other countries – especially that there’s many cases of women below the age of 40 diagnosed with it? 

The exact reasons behind breast cancer are yet to be fully discovered. The theories are numerous and not conclusive in my opinion. Some people say that in Asian countries where women tend to eat less dairy products, the rates of breast cancer are much lower.

Other research relate lower breast cancer incidence in Third World countries to the fact that women there rarely wear bras, and that bras themselves impair lymphatic circulation. It was found that women who wore bras 24-hours a day had a risk of 3 out 4 for developing breast cancer, while those who wore it rarely, or not at all, decreased their risk of developing cancer to 1 out 168. Is this reliable? I don’t know. [An article discussing the association between bras and breast cancer can be found here and here]

What I do know is, that as a breast-feeding specialist, breast-feeding plays a significant role in reducing the risk of developing breast cancer both for the mother and the child. The longer the mother breast-feeds, the longer this insurance is for the both of them.

We’d like to thank Nadiya for her informative interview and for shedding some light on all the positive aspects of breast-feeding. Contact Nadiya on 71-924481 or for more information. The links referenced in this interviewed were shared by Nadiya herself for anyone interested in finding out more about the topics discussed.


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