Breastfeeding is usually discussed as being something that mothers should do because it is good for babies – and the benefits of breastfeeding your baby are well documented. Breast milk contains a wide array of essential minerals, micronutrients, and immune-boosting components. The positive health benefits of breastfeeding have even been shown to last a long time and help your growing child enjoy a healthier life for many years.
However, breastfeeding is not just good for babies – it’s also good for mothers! Moms benefit in numerous ways from breastfeeding their babies – regarding physical health, emotional well-being, and social aspects.
Here are a few benefits of breastfeeding for mothers:
Protecting Short-Term Health
There are several ways that breastfeeding helps boost a mom’s health. For one thing, breastfeeding burns calories. In fact, you can lose up to 480 extra calories per day making it a valuable assistant in dropping the weight gained during pregnancy. Other research indicates that breastfeeding moms also tend to have a 50 percent reduction in postnatal depression. So, there seems to be some real psychological benefit to bonding with your baby and releasing endorphins that go with breastfeeding.
Reduced Long-Term Risk of Breast Cancer and Other Serious Health Problems
Not only does breastfeeding help improve a mom’s health in the short term, but research shows that the health benefits of breastfeeding are often long-lasting – even years after breastfeeding is over. As discussed, middle-aged moms who breastfed earlier in life tended to have lower Body Mass Index (BMI) than non-breastfeeding moms. In the tests, postmenopausal women who had breastfed for longer than 12 months had a 10 percent lower chance of getting cardiovascular disease (compared with women who did not breastfeed). Other research found that mothers who do not breastfeed may have a higher risk of developing breast cancer, ovarian cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other ailments. For every 12 months of breastfeeding, it is suggested that women can reduce their risk of breast cancer by 4.3 percent.
Contributing to a Stronger Society
Breastfeeding is a personal decision, but on a broader level, it is a statement of support for a healthier and stronger society. According to a study published in the journal “Pediatrics,” the United States would save about $13 billion per year in medical costs if 90 percent of U.S. families breastfed their newborns for at least six months. Healthier babies grow up to be healthier kids and healthier adults. Society benefits at every step of the journey when people of all ages grow up healthy. So when you breastfeed your baby, you are not just promoting your own family’s health; you are helping to strengthen society as a whole.
Experiencing that “Feel Good Factor” – the Emotional Benefits of Breastfeeding
Another underrated benefit of breastfeeding for moms is that breastfeeding just feels good. Of course, there can be challenges for some moms with latching on and sore nipples. However, once you overcome these initial difficulties, most breastfeeding moms find feeding their babies from the breast physically enjoyable and fulfilling. Breastfeeding releases “feel good hormones” like oxytocin, which promote a sense of peace, love and attachment. Giving birth changes a woman’s life – it can give her a special sense of accomplishment, purpose, and happiness. Breastfeeding is a special gift that builds a stronger bond between a mother and a child.
Breastfeeding is one of motherhood’s oldest group rituals and social activities. Women tend to learn about breastfeeding from other women, and even in today’s busy online world, breastfeeding can still be hugely valuable as a way to cultivate relationships between moms. Whether you go to La Leche meetings or join an online breastfeeding support group, you might discover that some of your very closest friendships are made with other mothers who have this breastfeeding connection in common. Perhaps another underrated benefit of breastfeeding is the richer network of social connections it opens up – for mothers, their partners, and their children – to enjoy for many years to come.
Which of the benefits of breastfeeding for moms has been most important in your life? Leave a comment and let us know – or join the discussion on our Medela Malaysia Facebook page!