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By Ruth Nchekei

23rd July 2021

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Benefits of breastfeeding to mothers

Breastfeeding is a magical moment between moms and their babies. It may seem as if breastfeeding only benefits babies– far from it. It also benefits mothers.

There are many challenges that come with breastfeeding– challenges significant enough to make a mom who was strong-willed about breastfeeding turn to bottle feeding. So, if you are at the verge of calling it quits, wait that thought out as you read this article.

If you choose not to breastfeed your baby, it’s still fine. Breastfeeding should be respected as a woman’s very personal decision. No one should pit breastfeeding mothers against bottle-feeding mothers, and vice versa, because both groups have one thing in common: an undying love for their babies.

*Related: Breastfeeding your baby for the first time? Check these tips

We appreciate when breastfeeding prevents sudden infant death syndrome; and when breast milk provides necessary antibodies to build babies’ immunity. But let’s see how breastfeeding is beneficial to the nursing mother.

Breastfeeding may reduce the risk of breast and ovarian cancer

This 2002 study by Lancet shows that every 12 months of breastfeeding significantly reduces the risk of breast cancer in women by 4.3%. Another 2009 study by Jama Internal Medicine showed breastfeeding women with a family history of breast cancer, had lower chances of getting the disease before menopause.

How does breastfeeding reduce the risk of breast cancer?

Though investigations are still on-going, it’s been determined, when a woman breastfeeds, breast cells become resistant to cancer-causing mutations. Another reason could be: Since breastfeeding lowers menstruation cycles,the exposure to estrogen hormone, known for causing cancers in women, is lessened hence lowering chances of getting the disease.

Breastfeeding is also linked to ovarian cancer risk reduction. How? When ovulation doesn’t occur during breastfeeding, epithelial cell division is inhibited, proliferation suppressed and the opportunity for cancer cells to grow diminished. Though studies on this are still on going.

Breastfeeding helps lower risk of developing osteoporosis

A woman’s body takes a hit due to pregnancy and breastfeeding.

*Tip: When babies are developing in the womb, they need calcium for the development of their skeletal structure, hence the need for pregnant women to take calcium supplements.

A breastfeeding mother’s gut has a high absorption rate for calcium acquired from foods eaten– calcium your baby’s bones need. In the process, the calcium gets depleted fast.

Once weaning begins, however, production of osteocalcin and bone collagen doubles, thus helping in the prevention of osteoporosis post-menopause.

benefits of breastfeeding to mothers

Mothers who breastfeed are less likely to get postpartum depression

The first few weeks after birth can be tough women. It’s expected for mothers to be happy when holding their babies in their arms, but sometimes happiness isn’t what’s witnessed.

Most moms (especially new moms) will be anxious, sad, overwhelmed and frustrated– the usual baby blues. But when these feelings are still there at 2 weeks, that’s an alarm for postpartum depression.

Studies have shown pregnant women with intentions to breastfeed are more likely to do so postpartum. But if they initiate breastfeeding only to discover they can’t, maybe due to low breast milk supply, chances of them getting PPD are high.

If the PPD is due to breastfeeding challenges, researchers recommend, care should be provided around that intention.

*Related: Benefits of breastfeeding to the baby

How will breastfeeding help alleviate postpartum depression?

When you breastfeed, you’re nurturing your maternal instincts to care for your baby. With each breastfeed you become more confident in yourself as a mother, because you’ll learning your baby’s cues and responding to them accordingly. Also, breastfed babies cry less, lessening mothers’ frustrations.

Breastfeeding also triggers the brain into releasing oxytocin, commonly known as the love hormone.

Oxytocin is responsible for the feelings of love that drive mothers into caring for and bonding with their babies. One sign of PPD is an inability for moms to bond with their babies. Breastfeed, and watch yourself fall in love with your baby, thanks to oxytocin. Oxytocin will also help a new mom feel relaxed and happy after breastfeeding.

Also what’s that reward hormone called again? Dopamine! Each time you breastfeed, you will feel accomplished, triggering your brain to release this reward hormone that will automatically make you want to continue breastfeeding.

The risk of developing type 2 diabetes is lower

Studies suggest breastfeeding increases metabolic rate in a mother, translating to an increase in energy requirements of roughly 480 kcal/d. Glucose is required to build energy. An increased requirement for energy reduces blood sugar levels thus lowering risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Also, prolactin, the hormone responsible for milk production, triggers growth of more beta cells in the pancreas. Beta cells make the pancreas produce more insulin into the blood. According to this study, breastfeeding women still had a higher production of insulin 5 years after breastfeeding due to the increased growth of beta cells in the pancreas.

Also, pregnant women with gestational diabetes report little to no diabetes issues even 2 years after delivery.

Studies have also shown women who breastfed while supplementing with formula also lowered their risk of type 2 diabetes, compared to women who only formula fed.

Breast milk is always available hence breastfeeding helps moms save money and time

Breastfeeding, especially in the first six months of life, is a huge time and money saver.

A mom doesn’t have to waste time cleaning bottles and feeding equipment amidst a hungry baby’s cries. She also doesn’t have to spend money on formula which is so expensive.

All she has to do is give breast milk to the baby.

The uterus contracts to its normal size more quickly

As mentioned, breastfeeding stimulates the release of oxytocin.

This hormone is responsible for contracting the uterus back into its normal size. Uterine contractions can be painful, like menstrual cramps, but are necessary in lessening postpartum bleeding or hemorrhage.

Careful though.

Since breastfeeding releases oxytocin which in turn causes uterine contractions, you may go into premature labor if you breastfeed while pregnant. advise if you wish to nurse while pregnant.

Benefits of breastfeeding for mothers–take it all in

Giving your baby breast milk, especially exclusively in first 6 months, has a lot of benefits, like preventing sudden infant death syndrome.

Breastfeeding benefits aren’t just for babies.

Women who breastfeed are more likely to enjoy certain health benefits, like lower risk of type 2 diabetes, postpartum depression or even reproductive cancers.

Does it mean women who can’t breastfeed will have health complications in the future? No. A mother may choose not to breastfeed due to circumstances beyond her control– circumstances like low milk supply or other health issues. They can exercise and incorporate other healthy lifestyle changes into their daily lives, in order to avert some of these health complications.

*Related: Tips for successful breastfeeding for first time moms

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