Lower stress levels, a break from having monthly periods, and a nice looking body are great perks. But on a more serious level, there are some pretty compelling health advantages to breastfeeding as well. Due to metabolic changes influenced by hormones, urinary track health is improved during lactation, so nursing moms suffer fewer bladder infections. Some women with chronic diseases discover they enjoy improved health during lactation. For instance, insulin-dependant diabetics generally require less insulin while breastfeeding.
Long-term health benefits may be even more compelling than the short-term advantages of breastfeeding. Osteoporosis, or bone degeneration, is a disease that impacts the health of many older women. While it is true that nursing mothers lose some bone mass during lactation, the loss seems to trigger growth of new bone after the baby weans. This means that women who breastfeed continue to grow new bone mass long after their early 20's, the time when bone growth otherwise ceases. Consequently, breastfeeding women enter old age with newer, stronger bone stores, significantly reducing their risk of brittle bone disease.
Reduced Risk of Certain Cancers
Breastfeeding can even prevent certain cancers! Breast cancer is a complex disease. Scientists are still discovering the multiple factors that trigger this much-feared scourge of women. What is known is that extended breastfeeding is associated with a lower risk of breast cancer. Studies suggest even better protection when a woman who breastfeeds was herself breastfed as an infant. So nursing our daughters, and encouraging our daughters to nurse, may help reduce their risk of breast cancer.
The cost of raising children keeps going up and up. It's nice to know that family finances really benefit when mom decides to breastfeed. La Leche League, the international breastfeeding support organization, once calculated that a family could buy a major appliance (or two) with the money spent on 12 months of formula. Many mothers use some of this savings to hire house cleaning help, to treat the family to a vacation, or to purchase a gym membership for themselves. In more stressed households, these savings don't go for extras, but may make a real difference in helping a family financially.
Best for baby and now the discovery that breastfeeding is best for Mom. Sounds like a win-win situation, especially when you factor in the experiential element. Breastfeeding is truly one of life's sweet pleasures!