The benefits of breast-feeding for babies are well established by science, but an increasing body of research shows that babies are not the only ones reaping rewards. Moms, too, may be at less risk for several diseases and health conditions, including an aggressive form of breast cancer and gestational diabetes.
Breast-feeding requires work and diligence, and it comes at a time when moms are exhausted and spent. That makes it tempting to call it quits when the going gets tough, even when you have good intentions. But the payoff is becoming harder to ignore.
Better for Baby
Your baby’s health is a great incentive. According to the World Health Organization, babies who are breast-fed have fewer and less serious illnesses, such as SIDS, childhood cancers and diabetes, when compared with babies who were not breast-fed. Breast-fed babies are also less likely to be obese and have type 2 diabetes as adolescents and adults.
Also, a massive review of research on the benefits of breast-feeding found it reduces mothers’ risk for type 2 diabetes and breast and ovarian cancer.
Newer research shows breast-feeding reduced the risk for a particularly potent type of breast cancer, called hormone receptor negative tumors, by up to 20 percent. These tumors are more common in African-American women and younger women.
Breast-feeding’s benefit is not limited to preventing cancer. Gestational diabetes is often referred to as pregnancy-related diabetes and for most women it is temporary. But if you develop gestational diabetes, your risk of developing diabetes long-term is seven times higher.
A recent study of moms who developed gestational diabetes found that those who breast-fed cut their risk of developing type 2 diabetes in half. And those who breast-fed for more than 10 months cut their risk by
“Breast-feeding provides as many health benefits for mothers as it does for infants” - Katie Halverstad, RN, IBCLC, Lutheran Medical Center
Better for Mom
“Breast-feeding provides as many health benefits for mothers as it does for infants,” says Katie Halverstad, RN, IBCLC, at Lutheran Medical Center.
Halverstad also notes that breast-feeding decreases a mom’s chance for postpartum depression by boosting her oxytocin, or “love hormone,” and decreasing her anxiety.
Practicing skin-to-skin contact, which is initiated as soon as possible after baby is born, is beneficial for both parents and baby, too. It helps to decrease cortisol, the stress hormone, which helps with bonding, especially for babies in the NICU. Babies who experience skin-to-skin contact cry 43 percent less and experience less pain during procedures when baby is breast-feeding.
Moms who breast-feed have a quicker recovery from childbirth, increased bonding with their baby and increased weight loss. Breast-feeding can give your financial health a little boost, as well. Most families can save an estimated $1,000 per year on formula purchase.
“It’s a win-win for mom and baby all the way around,” Halverstad adds. Click here to learn more about our lactation services.