Breastfeeding, sometimes known as chestfeeding, provides many benefits for baby and their birthing parent. It may even offer some protection against childhood leukemia.
Leukemia is a cancer of the blood. It’s the
If you’re in treatment for leukemia and want to breastfeed, there are some important things to consider first.
In this article, we’ll look at what the research says about the effect of breastfeeding on childhood leukemia risk and what someone with leukemia should know about breastfeeding.
The exact cause of leukemia isn’t clear. It may involve a combination of factors. It’s also not entirely clear why breast milk offers some protection from leukemia.
- contain antibodies
- reduce the inflammatory response
- affect the development of the immune system
- prevent infection
- act as a prebiotic, helping to promote a healthy gut microbiome
- affect the pH level of the stomach and promote the protein lipid a-lactalbumin, which induces death in tumor cells
Breastfeeding for at least 6 months seems to be best.
According to a
- 23 percent lower risk of childhood leukemia versus no breastfeeding or occasional breastfeeding
- 23 percent lower risk for longest versus shortest breastfeeding duration
Breastfed children tend to have better dental health and neurodevelopmental outcomes, per the American Academy of Pediatrics. They may also be at lower risk of conditions like:
- sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
- respiratory tract infections
- ear infections
- type 1 and type 2 diabetes
- childhood overweight and obesity
- necrotizing enterocolitis
- celiac disease
- late-onset sepsis in preterm infants
Some research suggests that breastfeeding may also lower the risk of neuroblastoma, another type of cancer. More studies are needed to investigate this link.
Breastfeeding benefits for nursing parents
Nursing parents also get a few health benefits. This includes a decreased risk of:
- breast, ovarian, endometrial, and thyroid cancers
- type 2 diabetes
- rheumatoid arthritis
Maybe. It’s a case-by-case situation, depending on your current therapy.
For example, radiation therapy near the breasts can affect your ability to produce milk, according to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Radiation to other areas of your body may not affect your ability to breastfeed.
Certain drugs can pass to your baby through breast milk. This includes powerful chemotherapy drugs that could be harmful to your baby. Targeted therapies and immunotherapy drugs can also pass through breast milk.
Other situations where breastfeeding is not recommended include:
- infants with classic galactosemia
- birthing parents who have HIV
If you have leukemia and want to breastfeed, consult with your doctor. A thorough review of your health and treatment regimen will help determine if it’s safe to breastfeed.
Infant formula does not cause leukemia. But introducing formula into a baby’s diet changes the gut microbiome. Some
Still, if you can’t breastfeed or chestfeed, or you prefer not to, infant formula is a safe alternative.
We don’t know exactly why some children develop leukemia. Children don’t have decades of lifestyle and environmental exposures that contribute to adult cancers.
According to the
- genetic syndromes like Down syndrome and Li-Fraumeni syndrome
- inherited immune system disorders or having a suppressed immune system
- having a sibling with leukemia
- a high level of radiation exposure
- previous treatment with chemotherapy drugs
Your doctor can help you understand if your child is at a higher-than-average risk of developing leukemia.
Overall, childhood leukemia is a
Research indicates that breastfeeding for at least 6 months may lower the risk of childhood leukemia. Of course, breastfeeding won’t eliminate all risk.
If you’re currently in treatment for leukemia and want to breastfeed, discuss it with your doctor. Certain drugs, including chemotherapy drugs, can pass through breast milk. This is potentially harmful to your baby.
It’s well documented that breastfeeding provides many health benefits. It’s an ideal food for your baby. But health issues, obstacles to breastfeeding, and personal preference all factor in. Sometimes, it just doesn’t work out or it isn’t the best choice for you.
Fortunately, the right infant formula can provide your baby with the nutrients they need for good health. Your primary care physician or pediatrician can offer guidance on which type of formula is best for your baby.
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