Mothers who nursed their babies for the recommended amount of time (which is at least six months) might have a lower risk of developing high blood pressure later in life, according to a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology and reported by Reuters.

In the past, studies showed that breast feeding provides immediate benefits to babies, such as diarrhea protection and middle-ear infections. And, for moms, studies revealed that it lowered women’s risk of diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease. Now this study found it might also lower a mother’s risk of developing high blood pressure.

For the study, researchers looked at the connection between breast feeding and a later risk of high blood pressure in nearly 56,000 U.S. women. All the women had at least one baby and were participants in the long-running Nurses’ Health Study II.

Researchers found that, overall, women who breast-fed for at least six months were less likely to develop high blood pressure during a 14-year period compared with those moms who only bottle fed. What’s more, women who did not breast-feed their first child had a 22 percent higher risk of developing high blood pressure than moms who breast-fed their babies for a year. In addition, women who had never breast-fed or only breast-fed their babies for three months or less were 25 percent more likely to develop high blood pressure compared with women who breast-fed for a year.

But despite the findings, researchers stressed these results did not prove that breast feeding gave long-term protection against high blood pressure. Scientists said they could not rule out the possibility that factors that stopped mothers from breast-feeding, such as a stressful work environment, might also cause women to develop high blood pressure.

Still, health advocates recommend women breast-feed their babies, and the World Health Organization encourages hospitals to take steps to help mothers’ become comfortable with breast feeding.

To learn more about the benefits of breast feeding, click here.