All of us are aware that breast milk is like a magic potion for babies. It is packed with antibodies, fat, protein, everything an infant can easily digest and needs to grow strong. What many of us might not know is that breastfeeding is also immensely helpful for new mothers themselves. Research in the field has shown that it has both short and long term benefits for women.
However, every mother and child is unique and we support women in whatever decision they make for themselves.
Health Benefits Associated With Breastfeeding For Mom
Boosts happy hormones
Breastfeeding releases oxytocin as well as prolactin into the bloodstream making you happy.
It’s studied that these hormones help reducing pain in women with Caesarian births. Oxytocin also hastens the post partum healing process.
Reduces the Occurrence Of Engorged Breasts
It is natural for new mothers to have fuller breasts owing to the production of milk. But engorged breast is a painful condition occurring due to clogged vessels or tissues.
This makes breasts stiff and very painful to the touch. It can be relieved with frequent feedings.
Pregnancy makes everyone put on quite a few kilos which are pretty difficult to shed.
Women who breastfeed, spend about 300 to 500 calories every day to produce milk. This helps them reach their pre-pregnancy weight in only a matter of time. Such mothers are also at a lower risk of developing obesity later in life.
In women who breastfeed for a duration of 6 months or more, periods (menses) return after about 3 to 5 months.
For others, who use infant formula or do not exclusively breastfeed, ovulation may resume within 1 to 2 months. This helps in spacing births and allows mothers to fully recover before they can carry another child.
Lowers Risk of Cancer
Chances of ever getting breast, ovarian and endometrial cancers are greatly reduced in women who exclusively breastfeed for the first 6 months after childbirth.
Though the exact reasons are not known, studies estimate that lower levels of estrogen and lactation amenorrhea play a great role.
Protects against heart disease
Nursing mothers suffer lesser heart diseases. This is attributed to decreased visceral fat.
Having a lower percentage of fat around the waist is a good indicator of a healthy human being.
Risk of Type II – Diabetes Is Lowered
Breastfeeding alters the functioning of insulin in our body.
Nursing mothers require less insulin to feed their young ones. Women who are already diagnosed with type-II-diabetes have fared better after breastfeeding.
Reduced Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis
It’s rightly said that pregnancy changes your body forever. Certain hormones like estrogen are considered to play a part in developing rheumatoid arthritis.
For women who have nursed in their life, the ratio of estrogen changes forever, putting them at lower risk for the disease.
Better Bone Health
Most women suffer bone mineral loss leading to osteoporosis in later life.
Lactating mothers witness increased bone density and health after they stop breastfeeding. This lasts throughout their life making them stronger.
Reduces Post-Partum Depression(PPD)
Breastfeeding forms a strong bond between the mother and child which affects both their psychological health.
Women suffering from PPD can experience overwhelming happiness at having their child so close to them.
Epigenetic Effects Of Breastfeeding
Research suggests, breast milk has components that can make significant alterations to our genetic expression.
Think of it as nature and nurture. Epigenetic mechanisms are list of hereditary changes to genes without ever altering the sequence of it.
Although such changes keep happening in us throughput our lives, the nutrition and growing environment received during the first 3 months since conception, are the most vital. Here is a list of the ways in which breastfeeding changes babies’ genetic expression for life.
It has a direct relation to reduced stress. Studies have shown that those of us who were breastfed had lower levels of cortisol, a steroid hormone and lower DNA methylation which are direct contributors to stress.
Decreased risk of non-communicable diseases. Children who are nursed for a minimum of 6 months show fewer instances of asthma, allergies, other respiratory orders than ones that were fed baby food. They also require fewer trips to the hospital.
Nutrition plays a great role in influencing our genome. The first, thick, yellowish liquid, called Colostrum, prepares the baby’s stomach for digestion of milk and is full of essential nutrients and antibodies that play a massive role in its overall wellbeing. It prevents Neonatal-Necrotising Enterocolitis(NEC) and other infectious diseases in children.
Chances of ever getting Type I – diabetes are greatly reduced in such individuals.
According to studies, breastfed babies form only a form section of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). This is a devastating syndrome affecting children less than 1 year. Nursed children are generally more robust than others.
Breastfeeding may be an important factor for early brain development. Nutrition plays a crucial role in the neural development of a child. Fatty acids present in breastmilk are considered responsible for the early development of neural pathways.
Lowers risk of gastrointestinal diseases and otitis media. Breast milk is thought to have anti-inflammatory properties. The consumption of which at an early age modifies our genetic character, reducing our susceptibility to such diseases.
Children experience lower incidents of coeliac disease and other inflammatory diseases. Early introduction to processed foods can put babies to a higher risk of stomach infections, hindering the developing of healthy gut flora.
Better cardiovascular health. Babies who were breastfed regularly for at least 6 months, showed better heart health than the others.
The evidence to suggest the effectiveness of breastfeeding for both mother and child are too many. Aside from providing them with great health benefits, it also forms a deep bond between the mother and child. In most cases, doctors advise a minimum of 6 months of breastfeeding for the wellbeing of both.
For almost all first time mothers, breastfeeding is as beautiful as it is difficult to manage. Talk to your doctor or friends and family who have been through these times before. They should be able to guide you with holding positions, breast pumps, etc.
Stay informed while you enjoy this beautiful journey. All the best