17 Ways Breastfeeding Benefits Mothers
Although we are aware of the many ways breastfeeding benefits a baby, it seems the benefits of breastfeeding for a mother are not so well known. Perhaps if more women knew about the benefits they derive from breastfeeding, more mothers would want to breastfeed their babies.
Below are 17 ways that breastfeeding benefits a mother.
- The baby’s suckling action triggers the release of the hormone oxytocin which produces the letdown reflex (a process whereby the breast releases its stored milk to the baby). Oxytocin also causes contraction of the uterus which is important during postpartum healing as it reduces the risk of bleeding and promotes the return of the uterus to its original shape and size.
- Breastfeeding delays the return of menstruation. Mothers who formula feed their babies usually observe a return of their periods within 6-8 weeks postpartum. A breastfeeding mother can expect to delay the return of her period for months up to a year and beyond. This helps a mother maintain her stores of iron and helps to reduce her risk of developing iron deficient anaemia.
- Breastfeeding reduces a mother’s fertility by preventing ovulation. This can help delay further pregnancies and allow her body to recover before being taxed again with another pregnancy. It is important to note, however, that the period of reduced fertility depends on the mother, her baby and their nursing patterns.
- There is evidence that breastfeeding may provide a mother protection against breast, uterine and ovarian cancers.
- A common misconception is that breastfeeding increases a mother’s risk of osteoporosis, however, studies have found the converse to be true. While a mother’s stores of calcium are reduced during breastfeeding, it was found that bone density return to normal levels and even increased after weaning, thus providing extra protection against osteoporosis.
- Breastfeeding has been shown to reduce a mother’s risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.
- Some studies also show that breastfeeding helps to reduce a mother’s risk of developing heart disease, heart attacks and stroke.
- Breastfeeding also reduces the risk of developing diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
- Breastfeeding releases the prolactin – a hormone responsible for milk production. Prolactin also has a calming and sedating effect on a nursing mother. This relaxes the mother, helps her get back to sleep quickly after a night-time feed and may be helpful in combating the baby blues and potential postnatal depression. Studies show that mothers who breastfeed are less likely to suffer from postpartum anxiety and depression.
- It has been shown that breastfeeding strengthens the bond between a mother and her baby. This can help first time mothers adapt to the role of motherhood more easily. Studies have also shown that mothers with a history of abandonment are less likely to leave their babies if they breastfeed them.
- Breastfed babies are less likely to fall ill which offers mothers greater peace of mind. Something must be said about the benefit of not having to deal with the added stress of living with a child with recurrent illness.
- Breastfeeding can consume an extra 200-500 calories a day (the equivalent of swimming 30 laps or riding a bicycle up a hill for an hour). This helps a mother return to her pre-pregnant weight more quickly and easily.
- During pregnancy, fat is stored around the waist and hip areas to protect the baby and womb. This fat is utilised in the production of breast milk after birth, which helps a mother return to her pre-pregnant size more quickly than a mother who formula feeds her baby.
- It has been estimated that breastfeeding can save parents an average of US$400-800 a year since there is no need to purchase expensive infant formulas.
- Breastfeeding directly also means there is no need for baby bottles, sterilizers and other fancy equipment required with bottle feeding.
- Breastfeeding is a lot more convenient, especially for night feeds as Mum does not have to get up to prepare formula.
- A nursing mother can also feed the baby lying down which is not as tiring.
The benefits for a mother who breastfeeds her baby are clearly bountiful. With so many pros for breastfeeding, more mothers should seriously consider breastfeeding their babies.