A study at Brigham and Women's Hospital has found that breastfeeding may protect women from Rheumatoid Arthritis. Researchers analyzed the hormonal and reproductive factors in 80,000 women for 24 years. They found the longer a woman breastfed her children, the less likely she was to develop Rheumatoid Arthritis later in life. Since Rheumatoid Arthritis occurs more often in women than men, researchers have long suspected some hormonal connection. But even with the results of this study, they still can not explain why breastfeeding may help protect women from Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Rheumatoid Arthritis occurs when the immune system malfunctions and attacks the joints causing inflammation and pain. Over time, the condition erodes bone and soft tissue within the joints. The two years of breastfeeding was a cumulative total. Those who breast fed two years or more cumulatively had less than half the risk of developing the disease than women who did so for three months or less. The study also suggested childbearing may help protect against Rheumatoid Arthritis. It showed mothers were less likely than women without children to develop it.