Breastfeeding is the norm. It’s what are bodies were created to do.
Benefits of Breastfeeding: Reduce Cancer Risk
Possibly the most loudly touted benefit of breastfeeding is it’s potential to reduce the risk of cancer. Breastfeeding has been shown to lower the risk of breast, ovarian, uterine, and endometrial cancers. With most of these cancers, it appears the longer you breastfeed, the greater the protection against these cancers.
A few stats for you to contemplate:
- If you have a family history of breast cancer, breastfeeding reduces your chance of getting premenopausal breast cancer by up to 60%.
- For women who do not have a family history of breast cancer, breastfeeding reduces the risk of premenopausal cancer by 25-28%.1
- Though the most dramatic decrease in risk is for premenopausal women, the protective effect against breast cancer does continue to a lesser extent after menopause.1 For every year that you breastfeed, you reduce your risk of breast cancer by 4.3%.2, 3
- For every month of breastfeeding, your risk of ovarian cancer decreases by 2%.4, 5
- Your overall risk of acquiring cervical or endometrial cancer decreases the longer you breastfeed.6, 7
Benefits of Breastfeeding: Prevent Diabetes and Heart Disease
The longer you breastfeed the more you cut your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. The impact of breastfeeding on your blood sugar levels is another important benefit mamas receive when they breastfeed. Mothers who breastfeed their babies reduce their risk of acquiring type 2 diabetes by 12% each year they breastfeed. Studies have found that mothers who have type 1 diabetes need less insulin while they are breastfeeding.8 Breastfeeding also decreases your risk of cardiovascular disease.9
Benefits of Breastfeeding: Minimize Post-Partum Bleeding
After having my second baby I remember the uncomfortable stomach cramping as I was sitting in my room nursing him. These cramps are actually a sign of a normal healthy process at work. When you nurse your baby you release a hormone called oxytocine. This hormone produces uterine contractions which helps to stop post-partum bleeding and shrink the uterus back to it’s original size more quickly.8
Benefits of Breastfeeding: Enhanced Bonding
Oxytocin, that same hormone that decreases post-partum bleeding, is known as the “love hormone.” When oxytocin is released in our bodies it causes our brain to produce feelings of trust, love, and affection. It’s one mechanism that helps to bond mother to baby.10, 11
Benefits of Breastfeeding: Save Money
Buying formula is expensive! Depending on the type of formula your baby needs (soy, hydrolyzed, lactose-free, metabolic formula, etc.) it can cost anywhere from $1500-$3000 per year.
Breastfeeding, for the most part, is free. Sure, there are accessories and equipment you can buy to breastfeed. One thing to keep in mind is, if you do need to buy any breastfeeding equipment, it is tax deductible. Additionally, many insurance providers will pay for breastfeeding equipment such as pumps. My first son, Bradley, spent a week in the NICU. His doctor wrote a prescription for a breast pump and my insurance paid 100% of the cost of a Medela Pump in Style Advanced Breast Pump.
Not only are you saving money on formula, but, if you remember my last post, babies who are breastfed tend to get sick less often. This saves money on the cost of health care and prescriptions. The money that is saved in health care from additional benefits both baby and mom will receive throughout their life simply can’t be computed.
Benefits of Breastfeeding: Convenience
The lazy part of me just had to add this to our list of benefits! There are so many things that are less bothersome when you breastfeed.
- No bottle making.
- No making sure your diaper bag has proper supplies to make formula.
- You can feed your baby in the middle of the night with minimal fuss.
- You can even co-sleep with baby to further reduce fuss. Baby nurses whenever they feel like it and you never have to leave the comfort of your bed!
Benefits of Breastfeeding: Emotional Wellbeing
It’s simply amazing the number of studies that have been done that show how breastfeeding impacts the emotional wellbeing of the mother. Breastfeeding mamas perceive their stress levels to be less than non-breastfeeding moms. Additionally, women who breastfeed tend to experience the “baby blues” for a shorter period of time and are at a reduced risk of acquiring post-partum depression.12, 13, 14
Benefits of Breastfeeding: Weight Loss…or Gain?
Everybody knows that breastfeeding helps with weight loss, right?! Well, for some women it does. Breastfeeding supposedly burns up to 200-500 calories a day. For the lucky ones, their pregnancy weight will fall off seamlessly. For us unlucky ones, we gain weight. Yes, with my first two children I gained more weight while breastfeeding than I did while pregnant despite avoiding junk food and being active.
Why is it then some gain and some lose while breastfeeding? I’m glad you asked! We certainly know there is a lot more to weight gain and loss than the “calories in calories out” bunk. Hormones play a huge role in weight.
My hypothesis (based on no great research, just an educated guess, so take it for what it’s worth), is that some of of us who gain weight during breastfeeding have bodies who are signaling to us that we need to conserve energy to provide for the little human being we are nourishing. Our hormones cause our bodies to hold on to as much weight as they can.
Breastfeeding is Worth It!
If you are not one of the lucky ones who is able to lose weight and eat whatever they want while breastfeeding, don’t despair! Breastfeeding is such a short, special time of you and your baby’s life. It’s worth it, even if you feel fat the whole time. I am happy to report that since weaning my twinsies a couple of months ago, my pregnancy/nursing weight is finally starting to come off! It will for you too.
Breastfeeding is the best way to nourish your baby and best for your body. It is one of the things you were uniquely designed as a woman to do.