You have probably heard the phrase “Breast is Best” in reference to breastfeeding a newborn baby. The benefits of breast milk to an infant are widely touted and acknowledged. Such benefits include: decreased risk of sudden infant death syndrome, decreased risk of obesity in the child, and a decreased risk of asthma, allergies and infections including ear infections, respiratory infections and diarrheal illnesses. What are often not discussed are the benefits of breastfeeding to the mother. Here we bring you 7 important maternal benefits of breastfeeding.
1) Better healing post-delivery: The act of breastfeeding stimulates the release of the hormone oxytocin. This encourages the uterus to contract, returning to its pre-pregnancy size sooner and decreasing post-partum bleeding.
2) Greater calorie burn: This allows some women to lose the pregnancy weight a bit faster. Some studies have also demonstrated a lower amount of visceral fat in women who have breastfed. This is the fat that is stored around the abdominal organs and predisposes an individual to cardiovascular disease.
3) Decreased risk of cancer: Moms who have breastfed have a decreased risk of breast, ovarian and endometrial cancer. This benefit is even seen in patients with a family history of breast cancer.
4) Decreased risk of chronic disease: A number of studies have demonstrated a reduction in the risk of Type 2 Diabetes, high blood pressure and increased cholesterol among women who have breastfed. There is also some data to suggest a potential reduction in osteoporosis risk.
5) Provides a break from menstruation: While exclusively breastfeeding, ovulation is suppressed and menstruation is delayed. This is a convenience for the new mom and also helps with pregnancy spacing. (Though should not be considered a highly reliable form of birth control)
6) Promotes emotional health: Oxytocin and prolactin are important hormones in a mother’s stress response. The increased levels associated with lactation allow the mother to manage stress better and have a positive impact on social behaviors including maternal-infant bonding.
7) Saves money: It is estimated that breastfeeding an infant for the first year of life can save $400-$1000 even when accounting for the modest increase in food intake by a nursing mother. In addition, breast fed infants have less illnesses leading to less time away from the job for working parents.