Breastfeeding is one of those things that you only have one chance to do for your baby. I recently went to several sessions on breastfeeding that were part of the Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo, and the health benefits are astounding! This is the first of a two-part series on the benefits of breastfeeding, both for mom and baby.
Breastfeeding helps mom burn more calories and lose baby weight more quickly. This is probably the most well-known benefit for mom when breastfeeding, although it’s not as drastic as you’ve been led to believe. A study published in 2014 found that for moms who breastfed exclusively for at least 3 months, they lost between 3 and 4 pounds more postpartum than moms who didn’t breastfeed at all or breastfed non-exclusively.
You get to eat more! Breastfeeding takes energy, and your baby needs more of it to maintain an adequate milk supply. Plan on eating 400-500 more calories per day if you’re exclusively breastfeeding. These extra calories should come from lean protein, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
Breastfeeding helps the uterus return to its regular size more quickly. This is due to a hormone that is secreted during breastfeeding. Oxytocin is released with the nipple stimulation that occurs during breastfeeding. Oxytocin causes uterine contractions, which help it return to its pre-baby size. Oxytocin is actually the generic name for Pitocin, the medication used to induce labor!
Breastfeeding delays ovulation. You’ve probably heard before that you can’t get pregnant if you’re breastfeeding. That’s because breastfeeding delays the return of ovulation. And if you’re not ovulating, there’s no egg to fertilize. However, this only refers to EXCLUSIVE breastfeeding. And, it’s not foolproof. You should never rely solely breastfeeding for contraception! If you start ovulating, you would be fertile before you get your period.
Reduced risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers. The reduced risk comes from breastfeeding exclusively for 6 months.
Reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. The connection here is the amount of belly fat someone has. The more belly fat, the greater the chances of developing type 2 diabetes. Breastfeeding can help moms lose more weight and thus reduce the risk of developing diabetes down the road.
Provides a physical and emotional connection to the baby. Breastfeeding provides an opportunity to create a powerful mom-infant bond with both nutritive and non-nutritive sucking.
Looking for more info on breastfeeding? Follow my breastfeeding board on Pinterest!