During your pregnancy you’ll probably be thinking about how you’re going to feed your baby. You’ve probably read about the multiple benefits of breastfeeding for your baby, how human milk is the best thing for your baby. But what about you? Are there any benefits of breastfeeding for moms?
Yes! The benefits of breastfeeding are not just for breastfed babies but also extend to women and women’s health! Breastfeeding lowers the risk of postpartum depression as well as the rick of getting various women’s cancers. It had help you lose weight, will save you money and just be a lot more convenient!
Formula or breastfeeding?
While feeding your baby formula may work better for you and your lifestyle, there’s no doubt that breastfeeding will not only bring a plethora of benefits to your baby – it will also reward you with a great range of benefits!
Okay, so here’s the science…..
You’ll begin full-scale milk production within 24 to 48 hours of giving birth. Scientifically speaking, this period is called lactogenesis. Once you expel your hormone-producing placenta, the oestrogen and progesterone levels in your body suddenly drop and, at the same time, the level of the hormone prolactin rises. (More of that very soon….)
This pituitary gland hormone signals to your body that it’s time to start making lots of milk to feed your baby.
(Lab studies have shown that prolactin may make you feel more ‘motherly’, which is why some experts call it the ‘mothering hormone’!)
Okay, so that’s the science, here are just some of the many reasons why breastfeeding is a no-brainer for mom!
Release of good hormones
Most moms who breastfeed will feel a great deal of joy and fulfilment from being in close contact with their baby. In addition to the positive feelings of joy etc, the ‘feelgood’ factor is also increased by the release of hormones such as:
Sometimes known as the ‘love hormone’…oxytocin is the hormone or neurotransmitter that starts labor by causing contractions in your uterus muscles. When your baby pushes against your cervix, it sends signals to your brain to release oxytocin. The hormone is then released into your blood and attaches it to cells in the inner wall of your uterus.
But oxytocin can give your body and mind so much more!
It’s also responsible for your breast milk letdown – which will enable you to produce enough milk to satisfy your baby, but it is also responsible for the stimulation of positive emotions like trust and happiness, and this will undoubtedly promote a strong sense of attachment between you and your baby!
So now you know a little bit more about this amazing hormone – Oxytocin!
As with oxytocin, prolactin is a hormone that is designed to promote milk production, particularly in response to baby’s suckling mechanism. Prolactin, however, serve across a wide range of functions – studies have, in fact, shown that it has more than 300 functions in the body: from reproductive functions to metabolic functions; from the regulation of fluids to behavioural functions.
Prolactin has also been proven to produce a peaceful, nurturing sensation that not only enables you to relax, but also allows you to focus entirely on your baby. Interestingly, it has also been shown that prolactin levels can be used as biomarkers for a range of diseases and conditions, including stress, anxiety and depression. Prolactin levels can also indicate the health of a woman’s ovaries.
In short, prolactin is an extremely important hormone that helps to promote both maternal and child health. It is released in response to a number of stimuli, including suckling, stress and anxiety, and can be used as a biomarker for a variety of diseases and conditions.
You’ll have a healthier baby
Research has shown that the incidence of colds, viruses and even pneumonia are reduced in babies who are breastfed! Gastrointestinal infections such as diarrhoea are also less common. Breastfeeding also reduces the baby’s risk of sudden infant death syndrome. Breastfeeding also reduces the baby’s risk of sudden infant death syndrome. Your baby’s immune system will be strengthened, and research shows that infants who are not breastfed have an elevated risks of childhood obesity, type 1 and type 2 diabetes, leukemia, and sudden infant death syndrome sids.
Not only does breastfeeding reduce your baby’s vulnerability to illness, but the antibodies and other substances in breast milk also help to build up your baby’s immune system. This means that your baby is less likely to develop allergies and other autoimmune diseases as he or she grows older. A breastfed baby has a lower risk of ear infections, especially middle ear infections, respiratory illnesses, childhood leukemia, childhood obesity and much more! The liquid gold is just full of nutrients that will help your baby grow healthy!
Premature babies need breast milk and often neo natal units will seek donated breast milk to help a premature babies fight infection and grow.
You’ll have a smarter baby
Studies have also shown that breastfed infants tend to have higher IQs than those who are not are fed infant formula.
The fatty acids and other nutrients in breast milk help to promote brain development and cognitive function.
Breastfeeding also helps to prevent learning disabilities and behavioural problems, though a lot more research needs to be done on this area, for example the background of mothers who choose exclusive breastfeeding may also come into play here.
You’ll have a calmer baby
Human breast milk contains natural sedatives that help to calm and soothe your baby. The milk proteins also help to promote a sense of relaxation. This means that your baby is likely to be less fussy and cry less than babies who are not breastfed.
Calmer baby = calmer mother! Yes in the first few weeks they will feed little and often, just remember a newborn baby’s belly is tiny so whilst those night feedings might seem endless, they soon regulate!
However, if you are finding breastfeeding stressful, its important that you seek the help of a lactation consultant or a local support group. To breastfeed successfully and give your baby a healthy start, you may need help with latch or other support, so don’t be a martyr and seek it out! Breastfeeding helps but research shows that frequent feedings can tire mothers out. So do find a local group or even an online group to help support you!
You’ll save money!
Okay, so money shouldn’t come into the issue of breastfeeding, but, from a purely practical point of view, feeding your baby with your own milk means you’ll save a fortune on formula! Yes you might need to put a breast pump and even some breast milk bags for freezing, and yes even nursing bras! (though you can Sleep Without a Bra When Nursing). Overall though, that it still a lot less expensive than if you chose to do fulltime formula feeding.
Again, having a healthy baby will probably also leed to less medical costs as there are fewer instances of illnesses. So saving money is not just about buying less formula cans!
You’ll have a more peaceful, restful sleep
Many moms are exhausted by having to get up during the night to prepare or warm bottles of formula. Simply having to place your baby on your breast is much quicker and simpler. If your partner or husband can go and bring your baby to you for nursing, you won’t even have to get up out of bed!
You’ll have an ever-ready, custom-made supply!
Baby breast milk is higher in protein and lower in sugar than ‘full’ milk, so even a small amount can keep your baby filling satisfied for longer. Plus, it’s always available and always at the right temperature and, even better, breast milk adapts as your baby grows to meet your baby’s changing needs.
Whilst it starts out as colostrum, exactly what a newborn babies needs, it soon turns into mature milk (on about day 5), which is exactly what they need then.
You’ll need less time off work
That’s because, thanks to the fact that your baby will be ill less often due to the health benefits of breastfeeding, you’ll have less need to take days off work once you return!
Though, it has to be said that there can be more effort to return to work with an exclusively breastfed baby. If you are formula feeding, its very easy just to make up the formula bottles then hand them with the baby over. When it comes to mothers breastfeeding returning to work, a lot of thought and planning needs to go into this! Read our guide Tips For Going Back To Work & Breastfeeding
You’ll reduce your risk of breast and ovarian cancer
You’ve probably heard a lot in the media about breastfeeding lowering the risk of premenopausal breast cancer and ovarian cancer, but did you know that it can also reduce your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and cardiovascular disease, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
The ovarian cancer risk is greatly reduced if you breastfeed for more than one year.
You can breastfeed anytime, anywhere
As a mom, you’ll know how difficult it can be to get formula made up or heated up when you’re on the go. Whether that’s just carrying out household errands, or traveling, breastfeeding enables you to feed your baby with ease. Also, you can take comfort from the fact that, in the event that you’re traveling, your baby will be comforted by your feeding at a time when their normal routine has been disrupted.
You’ll reduce the chances of weight problems!
It’s more likely you won’t become obese if you breastfeed. With breast milk containing 20 calories per ounce, you can burn around 400 calories a day, so it’s a bit of a calorie burner!
Remember we don’t advise going on a strict diet when you are breastfeeding and you definitely cannot breastfeed and only eat 1200 calories a day!
When mothers breastfeed exclusively they tend to return to their pre pregnancy size much more quickly, as long as you follow a balanced and healthy diet. We’ve done a full guide on what you can and what you cannot eat whilst breastfeeding.
Your uterus will return to normal more quickly
There’s no doubt that moms who breastfeed recover much more easily from giving birth. If you breastfeed, for example, various studies have shown that it will help your uterus return more quickly to its normal size. This is due to the hormone oxytocin, which is released during breastfeeding. If you don’t breastfeed it can take 10 weeks for it to revert to its normal size as opposed to 6 weeks if you do breastfeed.
You’ll get a break from menstruation!
Breastfeeding your baby delays ovulation and so, consequently, delays menstruation. This occurs because breastfeeding releases prolactin, which keep oestrogen and progesterone at bay.
There’s no doubt that breastfeeding will provide you with a sense of maternal fulfilment. It really is the most unique and emotional experience that you can provide for both yourself and your baby. Both the physical and emotional connection will simply delight you!
Does breastfeeding make you love your baby more?
The majority of research seems to suggest that breastfeeding does have an impact on feeling closer to your child. This may be due to the fact that breastfeeding releases oxytocin, which is often called the “cuddle hormone”. Oxytocin is known to promote feelings of love and attachment. Additionally, when you breastfeed your baby, you are spending a lot of time bonding with them and getting to know their cues and preferences. This close bond is likely to lead to stronger feelings of love and attachment.
However, it is important to note that not all mothers feel closer to their babies when they breastfeed. Some women find that it takes a lot of time and effort to breastfeed, and this can be frustrating and exhausting. As a result, these mothers may not feel as close to their babies as they would have if they had not been breastfeeding. Ultimately,whether or not breastfeeding makes you love your baby more is unique to each individual mother. Some will find that it enhances their bond, while others may not feel as close to their child. However, the majority of research suggests that there is a correlation between breastfeeding and feelings of love and attachment.
Take Away on benefits of breastfeeding to mother
Breastfeeding is a natural act that has many benefits to the mother. Some of these include delaying ovulation and menstruation, higher breast cancer survival rates, reduced risk for Type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and cardiovascular disease (including high blood pressure), all while providing you with a sense of maternal fulfilment.
Breastfeeding also provides your baby with optimal health and nutrition. Breast milk is packed with nutrients that are essential for your baby’s growth and development, and it also contains antibodies that help protect your baby against infection. Breastfeeding is a win-win situation for both mother and child!
This article was written by Sandra Baker – full time writer and the mother of four amazing kids (including twins!)
She’s also a breastfeeding counselor and has spent years helping new parents learn how to care for their children. When she’s not writing or caring for her children, Sandra likes to spend time reading and taking walks with her husband.