How Breastfeeding Also Benefits Mothers
The science is in. Without a doubt, research study and after research study has shown that breastfeeding helps babies get the best possible healthy start in life. It provides them with ideal nutrition and prepares their bodies to better fight off bacteria and viruses that can make them sick. It lowers their risk of developing asthma and allergies, reduces the risk of SIDS and helps prevent childhood obesity, among many other benefits.
Researchers are also beginning to understand why — including how breastfeeding influences a child’s gut microbiome. But did you know that nursing also provides health benefits to moms?
Why Breastfeeding Is a Healthy Choice for Mothers Too
“Breastfeeding releases some hormones while suppressing others, both of which offer many benefits to mom,” says Cari Gray, a certified lactation consultant with Henry Ford Health System. “Every time a woman nurses, her body releases oxytocin, which is the ‘love hormone’ and makes mom feel good.”
Because of this hormone release, breastfeeding has a calming effect in moms and promotes infant-mother bonding, which helps keep postpartum depression at bay.
Additional benefits to moms include:
- Returning to pre-pregnancy weight faster: New moms can lose weight simply by breastfeeding: Producing milk burns roughly 500 extra calories a day. That’s the equivalent of swimming 30 laps.
- Building strong bones: While a woman is breastfeeding, her bone density actually goes down, but then it rises after she’s done. In fact, according to Bosco, many women who have breastfed end up with bones that are denser (and stronger) than before they got pregnant.
- Lowering risk of breast cancer: A woman’s risk of breast cancer goes up with increased levels of certain hormones, like estrogen. Breastfeeding suppresses estrogen, which may lower the risk of pre-and post-menopausal cancers over her lifetime.
- Decreasing the risk of cardiovascular disease: A study from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists demonstrated that women who breastfed for more than one year lowered their risk of certain forms of cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure.
- Decreasing costs of feeding: Breastfeeding allows for moms to feed their babies naturally without having to spend money on bottles and expensive formula.
- Lowering the risk of Type 2 diabetes: Studies show that women who exclusively breastfeed or breastfeed most of the time decrease their risk for Type 2 diabetes by 50 percent.
- Delaying future pregnancy: “Women who exclusively breastfeed their babies in the first six months – meaning the baby receives no formula or solid food – are not as likely to get pregnant,” Bosco says. Breastfeeding releases hormones that suppress ovulation, and if you are not ovulating, you cannot get pregnant. (Be sure to use birth control just in case, however.)
Cari Gray, RNC, BSN, CCCE, CLS, is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and assists new moms at Henry Ford Allegiance Health in Jackson, Mich.