Breastfeeding Shields Mom from Rheumatoid Arthritis

November 4, 2004 -- A mother who breastfeeds her child appears to receive a major unexpected health benefit from her experience. Breastfeeding provides her with long lasting protection against developing rheumatoid arthritis, according to a report by researchers led by Dr. Elizabeth Karlson at Harvard.

The Facts

Women who have breastfed for a total between 13 and 23 months, regardless of the number of children, had a 20% reduction in the risk of rheumatoid arthritis compared with women who did not breastfeed. Women who breast-fed for at least 24 months - two full years out of their childbearing years - increased their risk reduction to 50%.


Any woman who has rheumatoid arthritis in her family should consider this as an extra reason to breastfeed her baby. It seems extraordinary to us that breastfeeding is a mutually healthy experience, benefiting the health of both the baby and mom.


"Do Breast-Feeding and Other Reproductive Factors Influence Future Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis? Results From the Nurses' Health Study," Elizabeth W. Karlson, Lisa A. Mandl, Susan E. Hankinson, and Francine Grodstein, Arthritis & Rheumatism, November 2004; 50:11; pp. 3458-3467 (DOI: 10.1002/art.20621).

Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D.
Frederick Hecht, M.D.
Medical Editors,

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