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Woman sitting on a bed, breastfeeding a baby

Health Benefits of Breastfeeding for Mothers

Woman sitting on a bed, breastfeeding a baby2

June 10, 2021

By Andrea Tran RN, BS, MA, IBCLC

Breastfeeding is not just good for babies. A mom who breastfeeds is also investing in her own health. New health benefits of breastfeeding for both mom and baby are being discovered all the time. Research currently supports many physical and mental health benefits for breastfeeding for mothers.

What are some physical benefits of breastfeeding for moms?

There is a positive effect of breastfeeding on several parts of your body.

  • Breastfeeding stimulates the production of oxytocin, which helps to decrease postpartum bleeding and helps shrink your uterus back to its pre-pregnancy size. Because postpartum bleeding is reduced, there is a lower risk of postpartum hemorrhage.
  • There is a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease.
  • Women who breastfed were found to be at reduced risk for developing type II diabetes.
  • Moms who breastfeed have a lower risk of high blood pressure.
  • Breastfeeding can lower your risk of fractures due to osteoporosis.
  • Nursing moms have a reduced risk of rheumatoid arthritis.

How does breastfeeding affect a woman's risk of cancer?

Women who breastfeed have lower rates of certain types of cancer.

  • Ovarian cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Endometrial cancer

Can breastfeeding be used as birth control?

The hormones from nursing can delay ovulation and so breastfeeding can be used as a form of birth control to prevent pregnancy. Because a woman can get pregnant before she resumes her periods, she should not count on breastfeeding alone as birth control. Its effectiveness will be increased if it is used in combination with fertility awareness methods.

Are there mental health benefits of breastfeeding for mothers?

Breastfeeding not only has a positive effect on your physical health but your mental health as well.

  • Breastfeeding mothers are less likely to suffer from postpartum depression
  • Prolactin is the milk-making hormone and instills a sense of calmness and happiness in mothers. It has been called the mothering hormone.
  • The hormone oxytocin is released during breastfeeding, and it produces feelings of maternal bonding. It has been called the love hormone.
  • Breastfeeding mothers who have breastfed for at least one year experience less anxiety than those who don't nurse their children.

Do breastfeeding moms get more sleep?

Breastfeeding mothers sleep an average of 45 minutes more a day compared to moms who don't nurse.
Breastfeeding mothers get more sleep because the hormone melatonin is released at night when you breastfeed, which sends your body a signal to slow down and relax. The hormones released during nursing – prolactin, oxytocin, and endorphins - all promote sleepiness.

Can breastfeeding help you lose weight?

Postpartum weight loss has been a popular benefit of nursing. On average, breastfeeding burns an impressive 500 calories a day.
The effect of breastfeeding on a woman's weight is variable, but it does help some women lose. Breastfeeding burns a lot of calories. However, the number of calories a woman consumes and her physical activity level will have a significant impact on her rate of weight loss.

Many women choose to breastfeed because they know it is so valuable to their baby. However, you can be confident that breastfeeding is also good for you. The health benefits you get from it are both short-term and long-term.

Duan, X., Wang, J., & Jiang, X. (2017). A meta-analysis of breastfeeding and osteoporotic fracture risk in the females. Osteoporosis International, 28(2), 495-503.

Mikšić, Š., Uglešić, B., Jakab, J., Holik, D., Milostić Srb, A., & Degmečić, D. (2020). Positive Effect of Breastfeeding on Child Development, Anxiety, and Postpartum Depression. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(8), 2725.

Kendall-Tackett, K., Cong, Z., & Hale, T. W. (2011). The effect of feeding method on sleep duration, maternal well-being, and postpartum depression. Clinical Lactation, 2(2), 22-26.

Jordan, S. J., Na, R., Johnatty, S. E., Wise, L. A., Adami, H. O., Brinton, L. A., ... & Webb, P. M. (2017). Breastfeeding and endometrial cancer risk: an analysis from the epidemiology of endometrial cancer consortium. Obstetrics and gynecology, 129(6), 1059.

Jarlenski, M. P., Bennett, W. L., Bleich, S. N., Barry, C. L., & Stuart, E. A. (2014). Effects of breastfeeding on postpartum weight loss among US women. Preventive medicine, 69, 146-150.

Andrea Tran RN, BSN, MA, IBCLC is a freelance writer who has been helping moms and babies breastfeed for over twenty-five years. She is married and the mother of three adult children.

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