I recently attended a baby shower for my niece, Krissy. As you might expect, the mother-to-be received a wonderful assortment of practical gifts for her little one from diapers and lotions to booties and bibs. She also received a variety of personal items, including a jogging stroller from her running club and a breast pump from her coworkers.
Written by Ann Metz on behalf of Tennova Healthcare
Watching Krissy unwrap that breast pump, and a generous supply of bottles and nipples, reminded me of my decision to nurse my baby several years ago. For me, breastfeeding was one of my most precious lifetime experiences. Back then, I thought I was doing it for my child. But in retrospect, I now realize it was also beneficial for me.
If you’re considering nursing your baby—or are already a breastfeeding expert—you no doubt know about breast milk’s big benefits for your little one. But did you know nursing is good for moms, too?
Clinical studies indicate that breastfeeding provides substantial benefits for nursing women far beyond emotional satisfaction, some which last decades after your child is weaned. In fact, organizations such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization, and American Academy of Pediatrics all recommend that women breastfeed their babies for at least six months in order for both moms and kids to receive the full health benefits.
Five Great Reasons to Breastfeed
To help me create a list of reasons why “breast is best,” I contacted Penny Knight, M.D., an obstetrician and gynecologist with Tennova Healthcare. Dr. Knight delivers babies at Turkey Creek Medical Center in Knoxville. She also has a special interest in lactation counseling and support.
It speeds your recovery.
“The hormone oxytocin, released during breastfeeding, helps your uterus contract—reducing postpartum blood loss,” Dr. Knight says. “And nursing your baby will help your uterus return to its normal size more quickly—in about six weeks after delivery, compared with 10 weeks for those who don’t breastfeed.”
It makes it easier to lose weight.
“Breastfeeding burns about 500 calories a day,” Dr. Knight says. “That’s like taking an hour-long Zumba class, or running up and down stairs for 40 minutes. Studies also indicate that nursing your baby for six months or more can help you lose deep abdominal fat, called visceral fat, which can develop during pregnancy.”
It lowers your risk for diabetes.
According to researchers, women who breastfeed for a full year are 24 to 44 percent less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes. Another study shows that women with gestational diabetes who nursed their babies for at least two months cut their risk for developing diabetes in half.
It helps to protect you from certain types of cancer.
Experts believe that women who nurse their babies have a lower risk for breast and ovarian cancers. In fact, one recent study found that breastfeeding reduced the risk of hormone receptor negative tumors—an aggressive form of breast cancer—by up to 20 percent.
“Even breastfeeding for a brief period of time has been linked with reduced risk for hard-to-treat tumors, which are more common in younger women,” Dr. Knight says. “Plus, breastfeeding may also reduce your baby’s risk for certain childhood cancers, such as leukemia.”
And it’s good for your heart.
Breastfeeding reduces your risk for developing high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease, according to several clinical studies.
“Nursing releases calming hormones, such as oxytocin and prolactin, which allow you to relax and focus on your child,” Dr. Knight says. “But those hormones also play a role in relaxing your blood vessels, which is good news for your long-term cardiovascular health.”
“As wonderful as all of these things are, most mothers put the benefits for their babies at the top of their list of reasons to breastfeed,” Dr. Knight adds. “Breastfeeding fosters a unique emotional experience for nursing mothers and their children. It’s a special gift for both you and your baby.”