Breastfeeding may reduce a mother's heart attack and stroke risk later in life, according to new research.
The study, published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, showed that women who breastfed their babies had about a 10 per cent lower risk of developing heart disease or stroke later in life.
"The health benefits to the mother from breastfeeding may be explained by a faster 'reset' of the mother's metabolism after pregnancy," explained Sanne Peters, a research fellow at University of Oxford.
"Pregnancy changes a woman's metabolism dramatically as she stores fat to provide the energy necessary for her baby's growth. Breastfeeding could eliminate the stored fat faster and more completely," Peters added.
The study analysed data from 289,573 Chinese women participating in the China Kadoorie Biobank study who provided detailed information about their reproductive history and other lifestyle factors.
The study comes after previous research indicated that mothers get short-term health benefits from breastfeeding such as weight loss and lower cholesterol, blood pressure and glucose levels after pregnancy.
"The findings should encourage more widespread breastfeeding for the benefit of the mother as well as the child," said Zhengming Chen, Professor of Epidemiology, University of Oxford.