As a culture pushing to make breastfeeding the new norm, we love posting, pinning, blogging, tweeting, and talking about all the awesome benefits of breastfeeding for baby. What is often forgotten (or maybe just not as well known) is that there are so many benefits for the mamas too!
This is a HUGE oversight because I think it’s encouraging if we hear these things too. Although I know most mamas are not selfish, it can feel draining to always hear about why we should make all these sacrifices for someone else. Someone who is struggling to breastfeed on top of everything else she is doing for her family may find renewed strength in know that this process can give her so much too.
This is not a complete list. There are literally dozens of benefits for mamas. But, I know ya’ll are busy so I’ll keep it short, or better yet, make it a two-part post. Anyway, here are my favorite ten benefits for mamas who breastfeed!:
- It Protects You From Hemorrhaging: Assuming you’ve had a vaginal delivery, you’re going to bleed down there after the birth. When your baby takes the breast (which can happen almost immediately after birth, especially if you go the natural route), oxytocin is released in your brain, which causes your uterus to continue contracting. Every time it contracts, it slows the postpartum bleeding. Mamas who formula feed are at greater risk of hemorrhaging after delivery. Additionally, their bellies stay larger for longer (that’s technically two benefits!).
- It Can Give You a Feeling of Euphoria: The hormones released during breastfeeding are designed to make you feel good. Blissful, even. They’re even powerful enough to help with postpartum pain. Many women report feeling a wonderful, all-natural high while breastfeeding.
- It Helps You Bond With Baby: Oxytocin is a wonder-neuropeptide. Not only does it contribute to your blissed-out state, but it’s imperative for helping you bond with your little one. That’s one of it’s biggest evolutionary purposes. When your baby latches, your brain releases lots of oxytocin, making you feel in love with your tiny human all over again.
- It Can Help Prevent Postpartum Depression: For the reasons mentioned in numbers 2 and 3, as well as several others found in prevailing research, women who breastfeed greatly reduce their vulnerability to postpartum depression.
- Your Period Doesn’t Come Back Right Away: Women who breastfeed exclusively – no water, solids, or formula – tend to not get their periods back for at least six months after the birth. TMI Alert: My daughter is almost ten months old and mine still has not returned and I was fairly regular before the pregnancy. This also significantly decreases your chances of getting pregnant right after the birth. When your baby is breastfeeding, it’s basically telling your body that it’s already busy caring for a child and therefore are not ready to create another yet. Birth control is usually recommended anyway as a safeguard because you CAN get pregnant before your first period comes back, but the likelihood is significantly less.
- Major Weight Loss: This one is pretty well-known, but your body gained weight in order to prepare your body for making milk. Breastfeeding naturally melts this weight away. I started noticing my weight loss picking up drastically around month five, perhaps because my baby’s caloric intake was higher. So, hang in there if you’re finding it difficult to lose the baby weight!
- Decreases Your Risk of Certain Diseases: Women who exclusively breastfeed decrease their risk for metabolic syndrome, which decreases the risk factors for heart disease and diabetes. Furthermore, if you already had insulin-dependent diabetes, you may find that while you’re breastfeeding you are needing less insulin.
- Decreases Your Risk of Certain Cancers: Yup! Breastfeeding protects you from developing breast, uterine, and cervical cancer. The hypothesis is that the lowers levels of estrogen during lactation may be the reason women who breastfeed are less likely to develop these cancers during their lifetime. Bonus Benefit! – Breastfeeding women are also less susceptible to osteoporosis and bone fractures than their non-breastfeeding counterparts.
- It Improves Your Overall Health: Women who formula feed are unfortunately at a serious disadvantage because their neurological and endocrine responses are higher than a breastfeeding mom. This causes their blood pressure to be higher and can take a serious toll on their mental and physical health, even much later in their lives. In fact, non-nursing mamas have a higher risk of developing autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis. You can think of breastfeeding as an insurance policy for your lifetime health!
- It Saves You Money!: While cruising the baby section at Target the other day, I decided to take a detour down the formula aisle to see what formula actually costs. I found a basic formula from Enfamil that cost $29.99. That was not the high-end; in fact, it was one of the cheapest. I flipped the carton over to see how much food it makes and was horrified to find that it was about 30 bottles. That’s $1.00/bottle! That might not sound like a lot, but that could be $3.00 – $4.00 per day on the cheap stuff. Heaven forbid you have to use a special formula for a sensitive baby. This could cost $1,200 per year on the low-end! I’ve spent $0.00 on my baby’s food so food. Nursing is free, convenient, and takes no effort to prepare.
Additionally, babies who are formula fed tend to get sick more often and are at an increased risk for ear infections, among other illnesses. So, there’s the added costs of extra doctor visits and time missed at work. Once all the costs of formula feeding are added up, it starts to look like a second car payment, or even a second mortgage. Think of all the things an additional few thousand dollars could go toward in your life! Retirement fund, vacation, home improvements, tuition…the sky’s the limit! Here’s one estimate for formula feeding costs.
Ahn, S., & Corwin, E. J. (2015). The association between breastfeeding, the stress response, inflammation, and postpartum depression during the postpartum period: Prospective cohort study. International Journal Of Nursing Studies, 52(10), 1582-1590. doi:10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2015.05.017
The womanly art of breastfeeding (8th ed.). (2010). New York, NY: Plume.