Monday, August 17, 2009

Breastfeeding: How does it benefit mom?

How does breastfeeding benefit mom?
It often seems that when we talk about breastfeeding we most often focus on the benefits for baby; however, there are numerous advantages for Mom (and even Dad) as well. So, let's dig in to how breastfeeding benefits mom.

How does breastfeeding benefit Mom
  • Breastfeeding promotes quicker shrinking of the uterus (aka, uterine involution). Oxytocin, the "let down hormone, levels increase during breastfeeding to stimulate the ejection of milk. Oxytocin also causes the uterus to contract and return to pre-pregnancy size much faster. A big plus for moms who've only had an expanding belly over the previous 9 months.
  • Breastfeeding decreases post-partum blood loss. This is also due to the oxytocin stimulating the uterine contractions that help control bleeding after a woman gives birth.
  • Breastfeeding delays resumption of menses. Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months after childbirth postpones the return of menstruation, and while not 100% fail-safe, can provide a natural form of birth control and spacing between pregnancies.
  • Breastfeeding enhances mother-infant bonding. Some studies have detected a relationship between higher maternal levels of oxytocin and an enhanced mother-infant bonding experience, possibly creating greater feelings of love and euphoria in breastfeeding mothers.
  • Breastfeeding promotes psychological well-being. Researchers have indicated a possible role of oxytocin in mitigating the effects of stress in the post-partum period. Prolactin is the milk-producing hormone secreted during pregnancy to generate breastmilk. Prolactin has been associated with elevation of mood and buffering the effects of stress in breastfeeding mothers. In fact, researchers have proposed that women who've had more than one pregnancy reduce the risk of depression with breastfeeding.
  • Breastfeeding is associated with lower risk for breast and ovarian cancers. A large-scale systematic review of 47 studies conducted in 30 countries estimated a 4.3% lower risk of breast cancer for every 12 months of breastfeeding. Essentially, the longer a woman breastfeeds throughout her lifespan, the lower her risk for breast cancer. Another large, prospective trial suggests that women who'd breastfed for 18 or more months over their lifespan had a significant reduction in risk of ovarian cancer in comparison to those who had never breastfed.
  • Breastfeeding may offer protection against osteoporosis. Studies have suggested a positive relationship between duration of breastfeeding and bone mass of the hip and lower risk of hip fracture in older women.
  • Breastfeeding provides a convenient, safe source of nutrition for baby. Since it comes straight from the "tap", there's no need to worry about water safety or proper mixing and warming. And as new mom, I personally appreciate not having to get up in the middle of the night to prepare a bottle.
  • Breastfeeding is less expensive than formula feeding. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, families can save an estimated $400 in the first year of breastfeeding compared to formula feeding!
So, there you have it. Now we know that even moms stand to benefit from breastfeeding. Great! However, many will admit that the experience is easier said than done. So stay tuned for the next blog in which I'll discuss how to stick with the decision to breastfeed.

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