An article from the May 14, 2001 issue of WebMD showed unexpected additional benefits of breast-feeding to both mother and child. The unique benefits had nothing to do with the known nutritional benefits already reported for breastfeeding. The basis for these claims were two separate studies done on breastfeeding. One study showed that breastfed babies were more tolerant of pain. The second study showed that the bones of teenage mothers who breastfed had a higher bone mineral density than teen moms who hadn’t breastfed.
The first of the two studies was conducted at Montreal Children’s Hospital in Quebec, where researchers recruited 74 breastfeeding mothers of 2-month-olds. In this study the babies were observed to see if breastfeeding had any effect on the child’s ability to handle pain. The results of this study showed that no matter what type of observation analysis was used, there was a reported 50% reduction in pain response in the children that were breastfed. The theory for explaining these results is that the sucking, the transmission of the milk, and being in contact with the mother, help to activate systems in the baby’s body responsible for reducing pain.
The second study demonstrates a way teen mothers may benefit from breastfeeding. Prior to this study it was commonly believed that women during breastfeeding lose bone mineral density and teen moms tend to lose more. Adult mothers typically regain the bone loss after weaning their babies from breastfeeding. However, there was a concern about whether the bones of teenage mothers — who are still growing and developing — could recover from the nutritional rigors of breastfeeding. The results were surprising to researchers. What the researchers found was that the bones of teenage mothers who breastfed actually had higher bone mineral density than teen moms who hadn’t breastfed even after they took into account factors such as weight, race, diet, and exercise.