Breast feeding has numerous health benefits for both the mother and the baby. Part one of this series covered the benefits that the baby receives when they are exclusively breastfed. This week, in part two, we will cover the health benefits for the mother.
Following childbirth, breastfeeding can help to restore the mother’s state of health and breastfeeding can help to promote faster healing (1). Breastfeeding can also benefit the mother, physically, in the following ways (2, 3):
Helps to decrease postpartum bleeding and aid in the uterus shrinking back to its normal size quicker
Lowering the risk of anemia after delivery
Helps to decrease menstrual blood loss
Helps to increase the space between children through lactational amenorrhea
May help the mother get back to her pre-pregnancy weight quicker. A breastfeeding woman may burn an extra 500 calories a day by building and maintaining her milk supply.
Increases the mother’s immunity against infections
Decreases the risk of breast and ovarian cancers
Above we talked about many of the physical benefits of breastfeeding for the mother. There are also many benefits for the mother emotionally. These emotional benefits include (3):
A lower risk of postpartum depression
A reduction of stress levels through the production of the soothing hormones oxytocin and prolactin
An increase in self-confidence and self-esteem
Increased calmness. Babies who are exclusively breastfed tend to cry less overall and have fewer occurrences of illness.
The physical/emotional bonding between mother and baby is increased
Learning to read the baby’s cues and, in turn, the baby learns to trust their mother
Breastfeeding is not always easy, but there steps you can take right after the delivery to get you and the baby off to a good start. Important things you can do to help make breastfeeding easier includes (4):
Stating your intentions to breastfeed to your healthcare providers
Cuddling with the baby immediately after giving birth, if you are both healthy
Breastfeeding as soon as possible after giving birth
Asking for a lactation consultant if you need help
Asking that the hospital staff does not to give your baby pacifiers, sugar water, or formula, unless it is medically necessary
Having your baby stay in your hospital room all day and night so that you can breastfeed often
Avoiding pacifiers or artificial nipples until the baby is good at latching on to your breast (usually around 3-4 weeks old)
There are so many benefits to breasting for both the mother and the baby. As you are making your decision on how you plan to feed your baby after delivery, consider all the benefits that have been discussed. Also, know that there are so many people who can help you to breastfeed and can provide support if you face any challenges. You are not alone in this journey!
About the Author: Leanne DiMaio earned her Master’s degree in Applied Clinical Nutrition from New York Chiropractic College in December 2017. She is currently working on her Doctorate degree in Clinical Nutrition degree at Maryland University of Integrative Health.Leanne is passionate about helping others achieve their optimal state of health and wellness. She is currently earning clinical hours toward the Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) credential under Kim Ross's supervision.
1. Office on Women’s Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Making the decision to breastfeed. Womenshealth.gov. 2018. Available at: https://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/making-decision-breastfeed. Accessed May 6, 2018.
2. American Academy of Pediatrics. Benefits of Breastfeeding. Aap.org. 2018. Available at: https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/Breastfeeding/Pages/Benefits-of-Breastfeeding.aspx. Accessed May 6, 2018.
3. Cleveland Clinic. The Benefits of Breastfeeding for Baby & for Mom. Cleveland Clinic. 2016. Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/15274-the-benefits-of-breastfeeding-for-baby--for-mom. Accessed May 6, 2018.
4. Office on Women’s Health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Preparing to breastfeed. Womenshealth.gov. 2018. Available at: https://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/learning-breastfeed/preparing-breastfeed/#1. Accessed May 11, 2018.
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