- In This Feature
- Benefits of Breastfeeding
- Breast Milk: The Perfect Food
- Protects Against Disease
- Health Benefits for Baby
- Improves Women's Health
- Quicker Weight Loss
- Reduces Obesity in Children and Teens
- Promotes Mother/Infant Bonding and Emotional Well-Being
- More Convenient/Less Expensive
- Expands Your Social Circle
- Encourages Infant/Father Bonding
Improves Women's Health
In the last two decades, breastfeeding research has focused almost exclusively on the advantages to children. More recent studies have uncovered the life-saving health benefits for nursing mothers. Here are just a few.
- Heals the uterus:
Nine months of pregnancy stretches a woman's uterus. Nursing stimulates the release of oxytocin from a mother's pituitary gland. This causes the uterus to contract and shrink and reduces the risk of postpartum hemorrhaging.
- Postpones menstruation: Breastfeeding delays the reoccurrence of a woman's menstrual cycles by several months (versus several weeks for women who bottle-feed). Fewer periods mean lowered risk of iron-deficiency anemia and decreased hormonal fluctuations. This is good news for sleep-deprived new mothers who might otherwise suffer from the low moods and exhaustion associated with PMS and their periods.
- Lowers risk of cancer, heart disease, and osteoporosis:
"Breastfeeding reduces the risk for three of the most serious diseases for women-female cancers, heart disease and osteoporosis," writes Dr. Dermer in her published report A Well Kept Secret: Breastfeeding's Benefits To Mothers (2001). "Ovarian and uterine cancers have been found to be more common in women who did not breastfeed. This may be due to the repeated ovulatory cycles and exposure to higher levels of estrogen from not breastfeeding."
Less exposure to estrogen over their lifetimes might also account for why breastfeeding women report fewer cases of breast cancer. The results of a study published in the International Family Planning Perspectives (2002) indicate that a woman's risk of developing breast cancer is reduced by four percent for every twelve months she breastfeeds, regardless of her reproductive history.
"A woman will derive the most protection from developing osteoporosis if her pregnancies are spaced at least two years apart," adds Arberter. "And the more months that women breastfeed over their life-time, the greater their protection."