Breast Milk Benefits to the Mother
Studies indicate that breastfeeding helps improve mothers’ health, as well as their children’s. A woman grows both physically and emotionally from the relationship she forms with her baby. Just as a woman’s breast milk is designed specifically to nourish the body of an infant, the production and delivery of this milk aids her own health. For example:
- Breastfeeding helps a woman to lose weight after birth. Mothers burn many calories during lactation as their bodies produce milk. In fact, some of the weight gained during pregnancy serves as an energy source for lactation.
- Breastfeeding releases a hormone in the mother (oxytocin) that causes the uterus to return to its normal size more quickly.
- When a woman gives birth and proceeds to nurse her baby, she protects herself from becoming pregnant again too soon, a form of birth control found to be 98 percent effective — more effective than a diaphragm or condom. Scientists believe this process prevents more births worldwide than all forms of contraception combined.
- Breastfeeding appears to reduce the mother’s risk of developing osteoporosis in later years. Although mothers experience bone-mineral loss during breastfeeding, their mineral density is replenished and even increased after lactation.
- Diabetic women improve their health by breastfeeding. Not only do nursing infants have increased protection from juvenile diabetes, the amount of insulin that the mother requires postpartum goes down. In women with no history of gestational diabetes, each additional year of breastfeeding resulted in a 4 to 12 percent reduction in the risk of maternal type 2 diabetes (only nurses included in these studies though, so interpreting results for general population must be done with care).
- Women who lactate for a total of two or more years reduce their chances of developing breast cancer by 24 percent. Women who breastfeed their children have been shown to be less likely to develop uterine, endometrial or ovarian cancer.
- Breast cancer: A reduction of risk of contracting breast cancer of 4.3 percent for each year of breastfeeding (one study) or 28 percent for 12 or more months of breastfeeding (another study).
- Ovarian cancer: Breastfeeding results in a 21 percent decrease in the risk of ovarian cancer.
- The emotional health of the mother may be enhanced by the relationship she develops with her infant during breastfeeding, resulting in fewer feelings of anxiety and a stronger sense of connection with her baby.
- A woman’s ability to produce all of the nutrients that her child needs can provide her with a sense of confidence. Researchers have pointed out that the bond of a nursing mother and child is stronger than any other human contact. Holding the child to her breast provides most mothers with a more powerful psychological experience than carrying the fetus inside her uterus. The relationship between mother and child is rooted in the interactions of breastfeeding. This feeling sets the health and psychological foundation for years to come.
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