Some Breast-Feeding Moms Risk Osteoporosis

Filed under: In The News, Breast-Feeding, Research Reveals: Babies

Switching from breast to bottle after a few years could save your bones. Credit: Getty Images

If you're still breast-feeding your 3-year-old, you might want to reconsider.

A new study shows that moms who engage in extended breast-feeding, which researchers defined as 36 months or longer, are at a higher risk for osteoporosis after menopause, reports Reuters Health.

That's right: Give your toddler the boob and you're going to shrink when you get old. Or, fall down and break a hip.

The study looked at a group of 567 post-menopausal Mexican women with mixed genetic backgrounds and found that mothers who nursed their children for 36 months or more were twice as likely to get the disease than those who didn't. Osteoporosis is when bone tissue and density decrease, resulting in pain and an increased risk of breaking a bone.

"One of the principal conclusions is the importance of considering the duration of breast-feeding as an important risk factor for osteoporosis," lead author Dr. Patricia Canto, of the National Medical Center in Mexico City, tells Reuters Health.

She adds that the study was intended to show risk factors associated with the disease.

About 67 percent of Mexican madres breast-feed exclusively, and, on average, have two or more children. Researchers find this fact troubling, because it may lead more moms to develop osteoporosis.

But while the study is, indeed, significant, some experts say it's difficult to draw any real conclusions from it.

Dr. Patricia Clark, of the Children's Hospital of Mexico in Mexico City, points out that other studies have found no association between osteoporosis and breast-feeding.

"It's a very controversial topic," Clark tells Reuters Health. "I don't think women who breast-feed and have a lot of children should be particularly worried they'll get osteoporosis."

What can moms do to prevent the disease? Get lots of exercise and eat well during pregnancy and breast-feeding, Clark says.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.