After working, and speaking, with mothers over the years, I have learned that some mothers do not know about the benefits of breastfeeding. Yes, many can recall that breastfeeding is the “best source of nutrition for babies,” but there are other health benefits for both mothers and babies.
As a volunteer turned intern at the Breastfeeding Center for Greater Washington, and during my graduate studies, I gained insight into the importance of breastfeeding and its short- and long-term effects for both populations.
Benefits for Mama
Creates a Bond
Prolactin and Oxytocin are two hormones released during breastfeeding. The release of these hormones may make it easier for a mother to bond with her baby.
Reduces Postpartum Bleeding
A release of oxytocin can help the uterus return to size and reduce postpartum bleeding
Delays Menstrual Cycle
Exclusive breastfeeding increases the amount of prolactin in the body preventing ovulation. Breastfeeding may work as a method of birth control (Lactation Amenorrhea Method).
Lowers the Risk of Chronic Disease
Breastfeeding may lower the risk of breast and ovarian cancer by reducing long-term exposure to estrogen. It may also lower a mother’s risk from developing type 2 diabetes and hypertension.
On average, families spend $1,500 on formula. The cost of breast milk is free, but some families pay for supplies (nursing bras, breast pump, lactation consultant, nipple cream, etc.).
Benefits for Baby
Protects Baby’s Immune System
When a mother is exposed to germs in the environment, her body produces antibodies that can protect her baby’s immune system. The baby receives these antibodies through breast milk.
Colostrum, the first type of breast milk the body produces, coats the stomach lining and acts as a line of defense against bacteria. It also provides a baby with vitamins and protein.
Reduces Ear Infections, Colds, and Respiratory Illnesses
Antibodies produced in breast milk can reduce the rate of ear infections, colds, and respiratory illnesses.
Lowers the Risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
Breastfeeding a baby for at least two months, regardless of exclusive breastfeeding, decreases the risk of SIDS.
Lower Risk of Developing Asthma, Eczema, and Allergies
One of the long-term effects of breastfeeding is that it reduces the chances that a child will develop allergies, asthma, or eczema.
There are even more benefits of breastfeeding that are not captured in this post. Mothers and babies are both impacted by breastfeeding. Breastfeeding has short- and long-term health benefits for both populations.
While there are benefits to breastfeeding, it is important to acknowledge that not all mothers choose, or are able, to breastfeed. Every family is different, and this post is by no means written to “push” breastfeeding as the only choice, but to provide education. Being unable, or choosing not, to breastfeed does not make anyone any less of a mother.
First photo by Dalila Delprat from Pexels
Healthy Children. (2016). Benefits of Breastfeeding for Mom. Retrieved from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/breastfeeding/Pages/Benefits-of-Breastfeeding-for-Mom.aspx#:~:text=Breastfeeding%20provides%20health%20benefits%20for,and%20can%20reduce%20postpartum%20bleeding.
Cleveland Clinic. (2018). The Benefits of Breastfeeding for Mom and Baby. Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/15274-the-benefits-of-breastfeeding-for-baby–for-mom
Office of Women’s Health. (2019). Making the decision to breastfeed. Retrieved from https://www.womenshealth.gov/breastfeeding/making-decision-breastfeed
American Pregnancy Association. (2019). Benefits of Breastfeeding. Retrieved from https://americanpregnancy.org/breastfeeding/benefits-of-breastfeeding/
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). Breastfeeding for Cancer Prevention. Retrieved from https://blogs.cdc.gov/cancer/2019/08/01/breastfeeding-for-cancer-prevention/
National Institutes of Health. (2015). Breastfeeding may help prevent type 2 diabetes after gestational diabetes. Retrieved from https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/breastfeeding-may-help-prevent-type-2-diabetes-after-gestational-diabetes#:~:text=Breastfeeding%20for%20longer%20than%202,account%20for%20these%20risk%20differences.
American Academy of Pediatrics. (2017). Study: Breastfeeding for at least 2 months decreases risk of SIDS. Retrieved from https://www.aappublications.org/news/2017/10/30/BreastfeedingSIDS103017
Cleveland Clinic. (2020). Ear Infection (Otitis Media): Prevention. Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/8613-ear-infection-otitis-media/prevention