Pregnancy And Health: What Are The Mother's Health Benefits From Breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding has tremendous health benefits to mothers, both physically and emotionally. These include short-term benefits such as weight loss and long-term benefits such as reduction in cancer risk.

The new mother gazes lovingly at the precious newborn suckling at her breast. Both mother and child seem blessedly content. The mother closes her eyes and sleeps, happy to know that she is giving her baby the best possible start in life. Everyone is aware of the breastfeeding benefits for babies""better nutrition, fewer ear infections, protective antibodies, and emotional closeness, among others. What many people do not realize is that there are numerous health benefits to the mother as well, both physically and emotionally.

The first physical benefit is felt immediately following childbirth. Each time the baby nurses it causes a release of natural oxytocin, the hormone responsible for uterine contractions. This causes less bleeding and dramatically cuts down on the risk of postpartum hemorrhage. The reduction in blood loss decreases the risk of iron-deficient anemia. It also helps the uterus to return to its pre-pregnancy size much faster than in mothers who bottle-feed.

Additionally, breastfeeding allows the mother time to relax. Many new mothers try to return to their pre-pregnancy activities much too soon. Besides taking care of a newborn, they are also cooking, cleaning, and entertaining visitors. Breastfeeding is a built-in break and an excuse to rest. Since no one else is able to nurse the baby, mom has to stop what she is doing to feed.


What's more, breastfeeding is a great calorie burner, burning from 200 to 500 calories a day. This is the equivalent of an hour of strenuous exercise. This results in faster weight loss. Nursing mothers often regain their pre-pregnancy shapes much faster than non-nursing mothers.

Another benefit of breastfeeding is its ability to aid in natural child spacing. Breastfeeding is 99% effective as birth control for the first 6 months if baby is nursing exclusively and on-demand. This is because breastfeeding delays ovulation and menstruation. This benefit is lost when baby begins eating solid foods or if he's using a pacifier to satisfy his need to suckle.

In addition to these short-term benefits, breastfeeding also has long-term health benefits for the mother. Recent reports indicate that decreased ovulation leads to decreased risk of certain cancers. For this reason, mothers who breastfeed for at least six months have less risk of developing breast cancer, uterine cancer, and ovarian cancer. It was once believed that, because of the loss of calcium, breastfeeding put women at higher risk of osteoporosis.Recent reports indicate that the reverse is actually true. Doctors now believe that a woman's calcium level returns to pre-pregnancy levels or higher after she has weaned her baby. This could result in decreased risk for osteoporosis.

There are emotional benefits to breastfeeding, as well. Nursing mothers and their babies share a unique bond. Breastfeeding mothers often quickly learn to decipher their baby's signs and signals, enabling them to calm the baby much easier. The skin-to-skin contact is also a natural comfort to babies, and often results in a less fussy infant. This makes the job of mothering less stressful. The hormone responsible for milk production, prolactin, is thought to have a calming effect on the mother. Though research is still underway, some reports show less incidence of postpartum depression in breastfeeding mothers than in bottle-feeding mothers.

On the practical side, breastfeeding also has financial benefits to the mother""and the whole family. Breastfeeding itself is far less expensive than bottle-feeding. Actually, breastfeeding is free as there are no bottles or formula to buy. One study indicated that breastfeeding families save over $1200 a year""just in the cost of formula! Since breastfeed babies are often healthier and suffer fewer food allergies, there are fewer trips to the doctor. That same study found that families of breastfed infants save an average of $200 a year on medical bills.

Breastfeeding is undeniably more convenient than bottle feeding. Breast milk is always ready""there are no bottles to prepare, no heating, no stumbling around the kitchen in the middle of the night. As long as the mother and baby are together, the milk is always available.

As you can see, breastfeeding has many short- and long-term benefits to the mother. These benefits are physical, emotional, and financial. Nursing mothers can now rest easy, knowing that they are doing what is best for their children""and themselves.

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