Breastfeeding has many benefits. The benefits that a baby receives are pretty common knowledge, and I’ll be listing some of those next week, but the benefits to the mother are just as great, and not as widely known or as thoughtfully considered. Breastfeeding is very beneficial to a mother’s health, both immediately and in the long term as well.
Nursing your baby releases two natural hormones, Oxytocin and Prolactin.
- Oxytocin is sometimes called “the love hormone” because it is the same hormone that is released during sexual intercourse. It is also released during labor and is responsible for stimulating contractions and moving labor along. After giving birth, Oxytocin causes your milk to flow through the nursing duct system, the milk ducts. When you nurse your child following the birth, the release of this hormone causes your uterus to contract back down to it’s normal size. This helps with expulsion of the placenta and prevents the loss of too much blood. This amazing hormone can also act as a mild natural tranquilizer, helping the mother and baby to relax during the nursing periods.
- Prolactin is the hormone that actually causes your milk to be produced. It is sometimes called “the mothering hormone” because it causes the warm fuzzy feelings of attachment that you have for your baby during nursing, also called “bonding”. Prolactin also causes lactation amenorrhea, or the delay of menstrual periods. Keep in mind, however, that this absence of your period does not mean that you cannot get pregnant! Breastfeeding is not a form of birth control!
Here are several other benefits to the mother:
Breastfeeding can help you lose weight after the baby is born. If you are nursing your baby several times a day, the extra 600-800 calories that you burn each day is a significant help in reaching your weight loss goals.
Breastfeeding reduces your risk of breast and ovarian cancers by up to 50%! One 2009 study found that women with a family history of breast cancer were 59% less likely to develop breast cancer if they breastfed their babies. That is a wonderful find!
The financial savings that come with breastfeeding are huge! You can easily spend $75-$80 on one week’s worth of brand name formula. Breast milk is free. Enough said.
Breastfeeding is convenient. Breast milk is sterile, warm, portable, does not require a bottle or any mixing, and it’s ready at a moment’s notice!
Breastfeeding promotes bonding. The frequent skin to skin contact with your baby that happens during breastfeeding plays a very important role in the bonding process.
The majority of these benefits are only available when you breastfeed your child. Formula feeding cannot provide the physical and emotional perks that nursing your child provides. You’ve heard it said that “breast is best”… well, it’s the truth. If you are able to breastfeed your child, (and sometimes there are reasons why a mother cannot), I truly believe that it is in the best interest of you and your baby’s health to do so.
Next week we’ll be looking at the benefits that breastfeeding provides for the nursing infant/child.