There are countless studies enumerating the positive effects of breastfeeding on infants in both the short term and the long term. What is infrequently discussed, however, are the benefits the mother gains when she chooses to breastfeed. As I’ve demonstrated in the infographic above, breastfeeding has significant physiological, psychological and long-term benefits on mothers, beyond just giving them the peace of mind that they are doing what is best for their little ones. Below is an outline of key facts from several studies on the topic.
- Suckling releases oxytocin in the mother producing contractions in the uterus.
- Benefits: Reduced chance of postpartum hemorrhage, helping the uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size and state.
- Delays the start of your period in the weeks after delivery.
- Benefits: Conserve iron in mother’s body so she is strong to recover with little/no sleep
- Lose pregnancy weight more quickly
- 300-500 calories a day are burned when you breastfeed: Equivalent of an hour biking uphill during the time when your body isn’t ready for strenuous exercise yet.
- Forge an immediate bond with your child
- Easier to regularly schedule feedings (because your body reminds you when your breasts are full that it is nursing time)
- Peace of mind having all the food your baby needs readily available at all times
- Confidence that you are choosing what’s best for your little one. Benefits of breastfeeding for the baby is substantial.
- Breastfeeding moms get more sleep which help you cope with the difficult infant phase
Long Term Effects
- More likely to keep pregnancy weight off long term
- Breastfeeding mothers tend to have higher Good Cholesterol (HDL)
- Reduced risk of reproductive system cancer
- Ovarian, uterine cancer risk reduced
- Breast cancer reduced by 11-25% with 6-24 months of lifetime breastfeeding
Dermer, Alicia. “A Well Kept Secret: Breastfeeding’s Benefits to Mothers.” New Beginnings 18.4 (2001): 124-127.
Kendall-Tackett, Kathleen. “A new paradigm for depression in new mothers: the central role of inflammation and how breastfeeding and anti-inflammatory treatments protect maternal mental health.” Int Breastfeed J 2.6 (2007): 19.