10/28/2013 01:14 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Breastfeeding and Breast Cancer: What You Need to Know

Breastfeeding isn't just good for babies; it boasts many health advantages for moms, too. One benefit, especially noteworthy during October for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, is the reduced risk of breast cancer in breastfeeding moms. There have been many studies conducted that support breastfeeding as protection against breast cancer to varying degrees.

A study published by Obstetrics & Gynecology this summer revealed that if new moms follow the recommended length of breastfeeding, 12 months, there would be 5,000 fewer cases of breast cancer among women per year. The Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of their life, and then supplemented with breast milk until at least one year. Breast milk extends beyond basic nutrition, resulting in many positive health benefits for babies such as fewer ear, respiratory and gastrointestinal infections.

Furthermore, by following these recommendations, new moms may reduce their chance of getting breast cancer.

Since there are so few things a woman can do to lower her risk of breast cancer, such as regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight and limiting alcohol, breastfeeding is an additional proactive step for new moms to strongly consider.

In the spirit of Breast Cancer Awareness month, here are some breastfeeding tips for new moms to get started:

  • Take it one day at a time, there is a learning curve but after a few weeks most women find it second-nature.
  • Get help as soon as you run into any issues. Most hospitals have nurses on-call for lactation consulting 24/7, so check before you leave.
  • If you're shy about feeding in public, consider a nursing cover. There are many makes and models to fit your taste. Build confidence at home first before you nurse on-the-go.
  • If you experience pain, consult with a lactation consultant. They will make sure your baby has the proper latch and you are using the best positions for pain-free nursing.