Breastfeeding, Bone Density, and Teens

Breastfeeding, Bone Density, and Teens

Breastfeeding can help improve mothers’ bone density. During the months of nursing, calcium is taken from the bones, and the density decreases – whether or not they are getting plenty of calcium in their diets. But the months after nursing are one of the most important times in life to get at least 1,000 mg of calcium per day (for adult women). When nursing has stopped and the periods have returned, the bones eagerly recruit calcium. It’s a unique opportunity to increase bone density to last a lifetime.

But what happens in growing teens? About 500,000 teens in the U.S. bring new babies into the world each year. About 1/3 of these are born to younger teens, who are still growing themselves. We know that younger teens are more likely to have underweight babies, as their bodies juggle the nutritional needs of more than one growing individual. Does nursing put further stress on the system? A team of researchers measured bone densities of hundreds of young women to find out. The results were published in the July 2004 Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. It turns out that the teens who breastfed their babies had better bone densities when they are young adults. And teens who bottle fed their babies ended up with weaker bones than their peers who didn’t get pregnant. Nursing is great for women and for babies – and perhaps especially for teen moms.

Dr. Alan Greene

Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.

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