Breastfeeding Benefits for Mother

By Krista Gray, IBCLC. Last updated July 28, 2017.

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Here’s seven ways that breastfeeding benefits a mother’s body.

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  1. Lower rates of cancer.
    Breastfeeding reduces the rates of breast, ovarian, and endometrial cancers.  While these cancers are on the rise worldwide, research suggests lifetime estrogen exposure plays a part and breastfeeding has an ameliorating impact.The longer a woman breastfeeds, the greater the protection!1 Women with a family history of breast cancer who have ever breastfed reduce their risk by 60% of developing premenopausal breast cancer.2  Ovarian and endometrial cancers are also positively impacted by breastfeeding.
  2. Decreased chance of developing diabetes.
    Women with insulin-dependent diabetes (Type I) find their daily insulin requirements are lower while breastfeeding.3  And breastfeeding decreases a woman’s chances of developing Type II diabetes.4  Again, the longer a woman breastfeeds, the better her protection.
  3. Delay in return of menses = natural birth control and lower rates of anemia.
    Exclusive breastfeeding delays the return of menses, on average, until 6-7 months postpartum.5Known as lactational amenorrhea, this method of birth control is over 99% effective in the first six months postpartum (as long as a mother is exclusively nursing day and night, has not had a return to her menses, and her baby is under six months old).  Not only does breastfeeding provide a simple, effective, hormone-free birth control, it also decreases a woman’s risk for developing anemia.
  4. Eat more and still lose weight.
    Perhaps the best reason of all is that a woman needs 500 more calories each day while exclusively nursing and breastfeeding helps a woman’s body return to its pre-pregnancy size more quickly.  In fact, women who use formula retain more weight than women who breastfeed.6
  5. Get more sleep.
    Did you realize that moms who breastfeed actually get more sleep than their formula-feeding counterparts?  How can this be? Well, first of all, even if you aren’t giving the bottle yourself, if your baby is breastfed your body needs to get the message and you should be pumping.  If you choose to sleep during the feed and not pump your supply could begin to suffer.  Additionally, your body will probably be uncomfortably full and you may be awake with engorgement.Or, if you hear your baby cry or stir your maternal instincts will kick in and you may wake up.  Bottle feeding requires a more active state of alertness on your part as well.  You have to get up, mix the formula, and give the bottle to your baby.  Then the bottles need to be cleaned and sterilized.  Contrast this with the semi-awake state you can be in to help your baby latch onto your breast and then you fall back asleep while your baby nurses.Not only does the research show that moms who breastfeed get an average of 40 minutes more sleep each night, but the quality of sleep is also better. 7
  6. Decreases risk of Cardiovascular Disease.
    A woman’s risk for high cholesterol, hypertension, and coronary heart and artery disease are all decreased the longer she breastfeeds.8 The American Heart Association estimates that 1 in 3 women in the US have cardiovascular disease so having the protection that extended breastfeeding confers on a mother is important.
  7. It’s easy.
    Breast milk is always warm, fresh, and available.  Your body makes the perfect amount without you having to go to the kitchen to cook.  It’s organic, natural, no mess, and good for the environment.  It’s sweet like honey and your baby loves it.  In fact, your baby was created for it! And if you’re a busy mom it’s just one less thing you have to remember to get together as you pack the diaper bag.

If these reasons aren’t enough, here’s one more for you.  Many times we hear that pregnancy and lactation are hard on a woman’s bones and weaken them.  Actually, though bone loss does occur in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, and though it continues to drop during lactation, these bone losses are reversed later in lactation and weaning.

Once a woman stops breastfeeding her bone mineral content is similar to or higher than before! Neither pregnancy, nor breastfeeding, is associated with lower bone density levels in menopause.9

So, if you are weighing the options of whether or not to breastfeed, here’s some food for thought on why you just might want to consider nursing (or continuing to nurse) your little one!

 

Show 9 footnotes

  1. Breast cancer and breastfeeding: collaborative reanalysis of individual data from 47 epidemiological studies in 30 countries, including 50302 women with breast cancer and 96973 women without the disease (2002) Collaborative Group on Hormonal Factors in Breast Cancer Lancet 360(9328):187-95. Review
  2. Stuebe AM, Willett WC, Xue F, Michels KB. (2009) Lactation and incidence of premenopausal breast cancer: a longitudinal study. Archives of internal medicine 169(15):1364-71 http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/707398
  3. Riviello C, Mello G, Jovanovic LG. (2009) Breastfeeding and the basal insulin requirement in type 1 diabetic women. Endocrine practice : official journal of the American College of Endocrinology and the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists 15(3):187-93
  4. Stuebe AM, Rich-Edwards JW, Willett WC, et al. (2005) Duration of Lactation and Incidence of Type 2 Diabetes JAMA 294:2601-2610
  5. Kuti O, Adeyemi AB, Owolabi AT. (2007) Breast-feeding pattern and onset of menstruation among Yoruba mothers of South-west Nigeria. The European journal of contraception & reproductive health care : the official journal of the European Society of Contraception 12(4):335-9
  6. Hatsu I, McDougald D, Anderson A. (2008) Effect of infant feeding on maternal body composition International Breastfeeding Journal 3:18 http://www.internationalbreastfeedingjournal.com/content/3/1/18
  7. Kendall-Tackett K. (2010) Nighttime breastfeeding and maternal mental health. Hale Publishing https://www.scienceandsensibility.org/blog/nighttime-breastfeeding-and-maternal-mental-health 
  8. Schwarz, E.B., et al. (2009)  Duration of lactation and risk factors for maternal cardiovascular disease. Obstetrics and Gynecology, 113(5), 974-82.
  9. Lenora J, Lekamwasam S, Karlsson MK. (2009) Effects of multiparity and prolonged breast-feeding on maternal bone mineral density: a community-based cross-sectional study. BMC women’s health http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?tool=pubmed&pubmedid=19570205
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