There is no question as to whether breast is best for newborns, but it is also better for mothers! It far more inexpensive and convenient, but there are many health benefits as well. Mothers who nurse their infants are less likely to bleed excessively, remain overweight, become pregnant again soon, and develope anemia or diabetes. These are only a few of the many ways breastfeeding improves a woman’s health.
Nursing mothers often recover more quickly from childbirth because of the hormones released. Breastfeeding in the early days stimulates uterine contractions which prevent postpartum hemorrhage and help the uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size and shape.
Breastfeeding can delay your menstrual periods for months, even years if you nurse past infancy. The delayed ovulation can help prevent a woman from becoming pregnant again too soon. Nursing instead of menstruating conserves iron which can prevent anemia. It also means the mother doesn’t have to deal with the hassel of tampons, maxipads, and PMS every month.
Breastfeeding helps a mother lose her pregnancy weight faster, as it costs her about 500 calories per day. That’s equal to 30 laps in a pool or bicycling uphill for an hour! Nursing not only takes the pounds off but keeps them at bay as long as nursing continues. A healthy weight lowers the risk of diabetes. Nursing also lowers a woman’s blood sugar levels, and mothers with diabetes need less insulin while nursing. All of this may decrease the risk of heart problems, one of the top killers of women.
Breastfeeding strengthens a woman’s bones as well. After weaning, a woman’s bone density can be higher than before she was pregnant, as it causes improved bone re-mineralisation. Studies show that it lowers the chance of osteoporosis by 75%.
Nursing has repeatedly been shown to decrease the risk of cancers. It may lower a woman’s chance of developing breast cancer by 25%. Evidence suggests that the incidence of ovarian cancer is 60% less in breastfeeding mothers than those who do not nurse their infants. Her risks of uterine, endometrial, and cervical cancer are lower as well. The longer a woman continues to breastfeed, the lower her risk of these cancers.
Nursing mothers can usually manage to get more sleep. Rather than having to wake in the middle of the night to prepare bottles and hold a baby while feeding her, a breastfeeding mama can simply lift up her shirt, offer her newborn the breast, and fall back asleep lying on her side. The hormone prolactin also contributes to this, as it is a promoter of a good night’s sleep. Nursing mothers can thus feel well-rested after shorter periods of slumbering which is quite useful in the early weeks. Plenty of rest promotes overall health.
A breastfeeding relationship can lower a mom’s stress level, too. Getting more sleep means she is less likely to fret about things and feel anxious throughout the day. Nursing mothers do not have to worry about affording formula or sanitizing bottles. They don’t have to change as many dirty diapers, and the diapers they do change don’t smell as strongly! Their babies are less likely to have health problems or require hospitalizations, which is one less thing on their list of worries. They miss less work related to infant illness, too. Nursing limits mommy stress quite a bit.
There are psychological benefits as well. Breastfeeding has been shown to have a calming effect on mothers. It may also cause the release of endorphins, which promote feelings of love and happiness. Those suffering from postpartum depression tend to be positively impacted by nursing. Nursing creates a special bond between a mother and child and can make a woman feel more unique, important, and needed. They are often more confident in their parenting.
Chosing not to breastfeed thus has several health consequences for the mother. Not only is formula feeding more expensive and less convenient, it offers no health benefits to the mother and even comes with some risks. Formula-feeding mothers are mores suspectible to postpartum hemorrhage and depression, anemia, osteoperosis, various cancers, diabetes, heart problems, higher stress levels, sleep-deprivation, becoming pregnant again too soon, and remaining overweight.
The menses of mothers who feed their children formula returns around 6-8 weeks postpartum, meaning that she goes back to losing iron through menstruation every month. She will also need to consider birth control options around that time. Mothers who do not breastfeed retain more of their pregnancy weight and do not keep lost pounds off as well. This is because they aren’t using those 500 calories–and may be too busy boiling bottles to get to the gym. Mothers who feed their babies with artificial milk are more prone to hip fractures after menopause and are a lot more likely to develope reproductive cancers.
As anyone can see, the benefits of breastfeeding to the mother are nearly impossible to overlook. Any amount of nursing is better than none at all. For the sake of your own health and your babies, breastfeed! It is one decision you will not regret.
Alice Demer, “Breastfeeding’s Benefits to Mothers.” La Leche League. URL: http://www.lalecheleague.org/NB/NBJulAug01p124.html
Dr. Sears, “7 Ways Breastfeeding Benefits Mothers.” Ask Dr. Sears. URL: http://www.askdrsears.com/html/2/T020700.asp
Tracee Cornforth, “The Health Benefits to Mothers who Breastfeed.” About.com URL: http://womenshealth.about.com/cs/breastfeeding/a/breastfeedingbe.htm
Unknown, “The Benefits of Breastfeeding.” Oregon Government. URL: http://www.oregon.gov/DHS/ph/bf/benefits.shtml
Charlotte Meryman, “Benefit for the Breastfeeding Mother.” Pregnancy Clue. URL: http://www.pregnancyclue.com/articles/Benefit-For-Breastfeeding-Mother.html