Everyone hears about the advantages of breastfeeding for babies, but breastfeeding actually has some significant benefits for moms as well. You read that right. Not only is breastfeeding one of the best investments that you can make in your baby’s health, it can also improve the health and wellness of mom for years to come!
The Benefits and Advantages of Breastfeeding for Moms
Here’s a brief list of some of the benefits of breastfeeding for nursing moms:
- Breast milk is always sterile, fresh, perfectly clean, just the right temperature…no need for cleaning or heating it up at a 2 am feeding!!!
- This is one case where the healthy choice is also the least cost option! How often is that the case? Formula can be a very expensive addition to your monthly expenses that you can just avoid!
- Breastfeeding releases more oxytocin into your system in order to stimulate postpartum contractions. This reduces blood loss and helps return your body to its pre-pregnancy condition faster. (Learn more…)
- Nursing increases the rate of weight loss in most breastfeeding moms without needing to diet.
- Breastfeeding has been shown to reduce the risks to mom of certain cancers including those of the breast and ovaries. Studies have shown that the longer you breastfeed, the better protected that you are.
- Breastfeeding women report psychological benefits such as increased self-confidence and a stronger sense of bonding with their little sweet babies!
Mothers who do not breastfeed are at a higher risk of:
- Pre-menopausal breast cancer
- Post-menopausal breast cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Urinary tract infections
- Heart disease
- Retained gestational weight gain
- Type 2 diabetes
- Myocardial infarction,
- and the Metabolic Syndrome.
(See study data here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2812877/)
Who knew that doing the very best thing for your baby’s health and well-being was actually the best thing for mom as well?
When deciding whether they will breastfeed, bottle feed or both, new mothers are often told about the many health benefits for the baby. There isn’t nearly as much emphasis on health benefits for the breastfeeding mother, so allow us to take a few minutes to point the spotlight on breastfeeding mothers who sacrifice a lot to do what’s best for their babies. It turns out that breastfeeding is good for everyone involved.
Let’s look in more detail of the awesome advantages of breastfeeding for moms:
Prolactin is a hormone that stimulates the production of breast milk, and oxytocin is a hormone that simulates the release of breast milk, but these hormones do more than allow the easy flow of milk from mother to baby. They can also improve the mood of the mother, with prolactin providing a peaceful, relaxed sensation and oxytocin reducing stress naturally.
These hormones are partially responsible for the bonding and emotional closeness that is developed between a mother and her baby while breastfeeding. They also bring a sense of calm serenity during what is often a tumultuous time of change for the new mother. When prolactin and oxytocin levels are high, mothers may also have an easier time resting when they have the chance.
Research has also found that higher oxytocin levels four days after birth correlates with higher birth weight for the baby. Exclusive breastfeeding for the first few months of a baby’s life can enhance levels of prolactin and oxytocin, maximizing those relaxation benefits.
Faster Recovery from Childbirth
Oxytocin can also help speed recovery from childbirth, starting with the prevention of excessive bleeding in the final stages of childbirth and lowering the risk of postpartum hemorrhage. Less blood loss means lower risk of fatigue, anemia, hypotension and other common postpartum conditions. Finally, the release of oxytocin can help bring the uterus back to its normal size faster, allowing the new mother to get back on her feet with less discomfort.
The fastest way to kickstart these benefits of oxytocin is to breastfeed immediately after birth. This provides immediate nourishment for the baby while allowing the mother to begin her journey to healing.
A study released in 2012 found that breastfeeding women are approximately 20 percent less likely to develop ovarian cancer when compared to mothers who have never breastfed. The most substantial protection against cancer came with longer breastfeeding sessions while supplementing with additional breastfeeding sessions didn’t seem to make a noticeable difference.
Later studies have verified these benefits, and one study determined that breastfeeding mothers were up to 90 percent less likely to develop ovarian cancer. The catch is that those benefits are reserved for those who breastfeed three children for 31 months altogether. According to this study, breastfeeding for at least 13 months could reduce your risk of developing ovarian cancer by more than 60 percent.
We also have scientific evidence that breastfeeding lowers the risk of breast cancer. Researchers believe that this is because breastfeeding women have fewer menstrual cycles over their lifetime, but changes in the breast tissue that occur as a result of the breastfeeding process are likely to factor in as well.
This is valuable information that all new mothers need when making the decision between breastfeeding and bottle feeding. It provides significant motivation not only to breastfeed but to breastfeed every child for as long as possible. Every month that you spend breastfeeding could potentially lower your risk of developing ovarian or breast cancer a little more.
Breastfeeding a baby may seem unrelated to the health of your heart, but there is scientific evidence that women who breastfeed are less likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease. One study found that Chinese women were about 10 percent less likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease if they breastfed earlier in life. This study followed up with women over a period of eight years and found that those who breastfed for the longest periods of time were the least likely to develop heart disease.
Other studies have resulted in similar results, verifying that the risk of cardiovascular disease goes down for each month that a mother spends breastfeeding. One analysis that included close to 140,000 menopausal women found that reduced risk of cardiovascular disease correlated with at least 12 breastfeeding months throughout a woman’s lifetime.
It’s possible that this reduction in heart disease risks comes at least partially from other benefits of breastfeeding. For instance, research has also shown that breastfeeding moms are less likely to suffer from high blood pressure.
Research has shown that breastfeeding can reduce a child’s chance of developing diabetes, and those same benefits are extended to breastfeeding mothers. One study reported by the National Institutes of Health in 2015 found that women who experienced gestational diabetes during pregnancy were less likely to develop type II diabetes within two years of giving birth if they breastfed for at least two months. The longer the women breastfed, the lower their risk of developing type II diabetes later.
Another study released in 2018 took a long-term look at breastfeeding and diabetes. After following up with 1,200 women over a period of 25 years, they found that breastfeeding for at least six months could lower a woman’s risk of developing type II diabetes by at least 50 percent. The researchers noted that women secreted less insulin and had less glucose circulating their veins when lactating.
These studies point yet again to the benefits of breastfeeding for as long as possible. The greatest protection in the long-term study was attributed to women who breastfed for six to 12 months or more than one year after giving birth.
Will breastfeeding really help you lose weight faster after giving birth? Since weight gain goes along with pregnancy and it’s not safe to restrict calories while breastfeeding, many women have placed all hope of losing the baby pounds in breastfeeding. It makes sense when you realize that breastfeeding can burn hundreds of calories per day, but it may make less sense when you also realize that breastfeeding mothers need to consume up to 500 extra calories daily to maintain an adequate milk supply.
A weight loss advantage has been proven by many studies, but be warned it may not be the amazing transformation that many women hope to achieve after having a baby. When you hear about a woman losing a substantial amount of weight while breastfeeding, the results aren’t likely a direct result of breastfeeding alone. For every women achieving substantial results, there are many others who lose far less weight.
Where does this leave you? It’s true that breastfeeding does burn hundreds of calories a day, and you could experience some weight loss benefits as a result. Just don’t expect a miraculous return to your skinny jeans from breastfeeding alone AND DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP OVER IT! It took 9 months to gain pregnancy weight…give your body time to adjust back.
You can take full advantage of that extra calorie burn by eating low-fat, nutrient-dense foods while breastfeeding. Nutrition and breastfeeding go hand in hand to promote faster weight loss, and those healthy diet choices will help you keep the pounds off once your baby is weaned. Also, don’t underestimate the benefits of taking your baby out for walks and adding exercise to your schedule as soon as you’re medically cleared and are getting enough rest to do so safely.
Other Breastfeeding Benefits for Moms
Do you need even more motivation to breastfeed as long as possible? Many moms appreciate that they don’t have to pay for expensive baby formula. If you breastfeed exclusively, you may not even need bottles, liners, nipples and other supplies. Even the cheapest formulas are often a financial strain on growing families, but breast milk is free. While you do need to eat healthy food to produce that milk, you would likely eat even if you weren’t breastfeeding.
There are also conveniences that come only with breastfeeding. You don’t have to fumble through the dark trying to heat up a bottle when your little one wants to eat at two in the morning. As long as your milk supply is strong, you always have milk available.
Forget about sending your partner out for formula in the middle of the night, and you will never have to change formulas to account for your baby’s nutritional needs. Your body will automatically produce the milk that your baby needs to thrive. Add the health benefits for your body, and you see why breastfeeding allows moms and babies to thrive together.
So if you are a mommy on the fence or really struggling as to whether it is worth it to keep breastfeeding…it is! Hang in there! It is best for YOU and best for your baby too!
- Surprising Benefits of Breastfeeding for Babies and Their Health
- Special Breastfeeding Benefits for Preemie Babies
- Extended Breastfeeding: Breastfeeding Benefits Beyond One Year