The surprising benefits of breastfeeding
It’s well-established that breastfeeding sets your tot up for good health – but did you know that it also improves your wellbeing?
Breastfeeding your tot is one of the most wonderful bonding experiences a mama can have. While it may not always be easy at first, if you are lucky enough to be able to nurse without issues, you’ll enjoy plenty of skin-to-skin time with your baby and a real feeling of empowerment (you’re literally feeding your baby with your body – it’s pretty incredible!). And of course, you already know that your baby will benefit, too – from a reduced risk of sudden infant death syndrome to lowered risk of contracting illnesses like pneumonia and even diseases like diabetes later in life. Of course, if you choose to bottle-feed, or cannot breastfeed, your baby will still be healthy and well, and so will you. It’s a personal choice that you should make based on your own knowledge, instinct and health. Whatever you decide to do, it’s fascinating to see that breastfeeding, as well as having benefits for your baby, also has important health impacts for you.
Breastfeeding torches calories
For every ounce of breast milk you produce, your body expends 20 calories of energy. The average six-month-old consumes around 25 ounces of milk a day – so you’re burning up an extra 500 calories, just by nursing. Mothers who aren’t able to shift those extra pounds may find themselves more likely to develop problems in subsequent pregnancies, or metabolic imbalances.
It can help lower your risk of some cancers
Women who breastfeed for a year or more have a reduced risk of developing breast cancer. Researchers believe that the activity of milk production gives breast cells less time to “misbehave” and become cancerous, and that lower levels of estrogen in breastfeeding women contribute to the reduced risk, also. It can also help lower incidences of ovarian cancer. Researchers at Australia’s Curtin University found that women who breastfed for 13 months or longer were 63 per cent less likely to develop ovarian cancer than women who breastfed for less than seven months. The reason? Breastfeeding generally suppresses ovulation, and the fewer ovulation cycles a woman has, the less likely it is that her cells will mutate.
It strengthens your bones
Women who breastfeed have a lower risk of postmenopausal osteoporosis. During pregnancy and a period of lactation, your body absorbs calcium much more efficiently. Many women will finish breastfeeding with much denser bones than when they began, leading to a lowered risk of developing osteoporosis later in life.
You’ll recover from birth more quickly
Giving birth is a major event – for your mind, your life, and of course, your body. Every woman needs some time to heal after birthing her baby, and breastfeeding can speed up that process. When you nurse, your body produces oxytocin, a feel-good hormone that helps your uterus contract, post-delivery blood loss. Breastfeeding also helps your uterus return to its normal size more quickly. If you bottle-feed, you can help quicken the process by laying your baby on your tummy, his feet pointed toward your belly button. Doctors say the motion of your tot’s feet pushing on your tummy can help the uterus contract.
It could reduce your risk of diabetes
While pregnancy can raise your risk of diabetes (gestational, at least), lactating appears to act as a band-aid, protecting against type 2 diabetes. Studies have found that, the longer a woman breastfeeds, the less likely she is to develop diabetes (even accounting for BMI, another risk factor). And even in women who had gestational diabetes (who are thought to be at greater risk of developing diabetes after pregnancy) are less likely to be diabetic if they nurse for at least nine months.