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Surprising Physical and Emotional Benefits of Breastfeeding for Mom

Featured Guest Post by Medela US

Decades of human milk and lactation research have shown that breastfed babies experience a wide range of physical and emotional benefits from nursing. What many outside of these healthcare and research fields don’t realize, however, is that breastfeeding also brings many physical and emotional benefits to nursing parents too. In fact, some may even come as a surprise. Making the decision to nurse your newest little one is a healthy choice that can provide your baby with unique protections to help them get the strongest possible start while offering you some wonderful health advantages too, including:

Physical and Emotional Benefits of Breastfeeding for Mom

  • Postpartum Healing: The nipple stimulation you experience while breastfeeding causes release of oxytocin into your bloodstream. This stimulates contractions of muscles that help your uterus heal and return to its pre-pregnancy shape and size.  Additionally, when you breastfeed your baby immediately following birth, your uterus begins the healing process. As it contracts and returns to its pre-pregnancy size, you’ll notice that you may experience a gradual reduction in postpartum bleeding.
  • Weight Loss: When you breastfeed, your body burns about 500 extra calories per day as it works to build and maintain milk production. If you’re exclusively breastfeeding your baby, you may experience quicker postpartum weight loss – but don’t forget to ensure that you’re consuming the recommended amount of calories each day for yourself and your milk supply! Supporting your health and wellness is especially important during your breastfeeding journey.
  • Lowered Risk of Depression: The “baby blues” impact many new mothers and some of these moms – about 1 in 7 new parents overall – will develop a long-term depression known as postpartum depression. Studies have shown that breastfeeding moms have a significantly lower risk of postpartum depression than moms who are not nursing – In fact, the longer you breastfeed your little one, the lower the risk of developing postpartum depression.   
  • Reduced Stress and Increased Feelings of Calm: We know, mama – It can be tough to find your zen at times, especially during long days and nights with limited sleep, a crabby or gassy little one, or sore nipples as you learn how to nurse together. But, did you know that your body produces oxytocin and prolactin when you breastfeed? These soothing hormones reduce stress and support feelings of well-being.

Additionally, your milk contains a hormone known as cholecystokinin that enhances digestion, sedation, and an overall feeling of satiation and well-being – all of which can help your baby feel calmer too! Breastfed babies also experience fewer childhood illnesses because your milk is chock-full of vitamins, nutrients, minerals, antibodies, and more ultra-important components to protect your little one and promote their wellness. As a new parent, it can be stressful to have a fussy baby or one who is often sick – because of your milk, you can rest a bit more assured that your little one is getting exactly what they need to thrive. And because your baby is calm, you can be too!

  • Self-Esteem and Self-Love: Don’t forget to clap for yourself once in a while, mama, because there is every reason to take pride in nursing your baby. Breastfeeding isn’t always easy or glamorous, so staying committed to your unique goals is a big deal and one that’s so worth celebrating! Recognizing that your body is producing the nutrient-rich food that your baby needs to grow and flourish should rightfully make you feel fantastic about yourself – Take a moment to remember that you’re doing a great job (and we bet your baby thinks so too!)
  • Bonding with Baby: One of the sweetest benefits of breastfeeding is the intimacy and closeness it brings with your little one. Establishing that vital bond as soon as possible in your baby’s life through skin-to-skin contact and encouragement to begin nursing will help support a strong relationship between the two of you from the very beginning. 

Long-Term Benefits of Breastfeeding for Mom 

  • Breast Cancer and Endometriosis: Breastfeeding moms have a lower risk of pre- and post-menopausal breast cancer. In fact, for every 12 months that you breastfeed, your risk of breast cancer decreases by about 4.3%. Because hormonal changes during lactation delay the return of menstrual periods, you have less lifetime exposure to hormones like estrogen which can spur cancer cell growth. Delayed menstrual periods are also the reason why you’re at a reduced risk for developing endometriosis.  
  • Ovarian Cancer: As a breastfeeding mom, you also have a significantly lower risk of developing ovarian cancer. This is thought to be because breastfeeding suppresses ovulation. The less frequently you ovulate, the less exposure to estrogen and abnormal cells that could become cancerous.  
  • Autoimmune Diseases and Other Illnesses: Your risk for developing multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol is greatly reduced as a breastfeeding parent – often thought to be because of all the hormonal changes your body goes through during pregnancy and lactation. Additionally, when you’re breastfeeding, your body absorbs bone-building calcium much more efficiently – leading to a lower risk of developing post-menopausal osteoporosis
  • Heart Disease: Research suggests that parents who breastfeed are less likely to develop heart disease or stroke and less likely to die from cardiovascular disease. In fact, research also shows a progressive reduction of cardiovascular risk in lifetime durations of breastfeeding up to 12 months – so, the longer you breastfeed your little one, then the more protected you’ll be! 

With all these amazing, proven benefits of breastfeeding for moms too, it’s safe to say that keeping your baby close to your heart – literally! – while nursing can actually benefit mind, body, heart, and soul in a multitude of evidence-based ways. Medela can help you prepare for your baby’s arrival and ease into breastfeeding after your little one makes their debut.

Learn more about Medela breast pumps and ordering through insurance here.