Is Breastfeeding Good for Mothers?

One of the most common reasons of maternal death and admission to Intensive Care Unit after birth is postpartum hemorrhage (extensive internal bleeding). However, starting to breastfeed early and often after birth (ideally we should start within the first half hour after delivery) can prevent it. When we place the baby at the breast our body reacts with a number of hormonal changes, as well as mild uterine contractions. Baby’s presence near the nipple and the effect of suckling stimulates a release of oxytocin hormone in our system (known as “love” hormone). This hormone is responsible for the wave of milk (“letdown”) that the baby will receive and for the contraction of the uterus – a process that prevents postpartum hemorrhage and helps uterus return to its natural shape!

Reduces risk of ovarian, uterine and breast cancers:

The research shows that the longer the mother breastfeeds the longer her protection from these female cancers is throughout her life!

Helps lose weight:

A breastfeeding mother spends around 500 calories a day for nursing her baby, which equals to running 10 km or making 30 laps in a swimming pool a day! (When my husband knew of this fact he was quite disappointed men cannot breastfeed. He had to go to the gym every day and I still was losing weight much faster than he was! And by the time my daughter was 6 months old my body “melted away” all the 26 kg of extra pregnancy weight I acquired before birth!

Decreases risk of osteoporosis:

Recent studies show that long term breastfeeding results in better bone density and reduced risk of osteoporosis (to the contrary of what we usually hear). In fact, women who breastfeed have a much lower risk of hip fractures after menopause.

Helps delay next pregnancy:

Even though in Lebanon everyone encourages us not to wait too long before getting pregnant again, World Health Association points that getting pregnant within the first 6 months after birth is associated with a risk of maternal death during labor, while getting pregnant between 6 to 12 months often results in low-birth weight and premature babies. Breastfeeding helps us delay our menstruation, which in return delays the “restart” of our reproductive cycles. While bottle-feeding mothers usually get their periods within 6-8 weeks after birth, an exclusively breastfeeding mom usually will not have her cycle back at least for several months (and sometimes as long as she breastfeeds for up to a year or longer).

Reduces blood sugar level:

Breastfeeding mothers have lower blood sugar level and even if they already had Type I diabetes before pregnancy they would need much less insulin while they are lactating. For other women breastfeeding will reduce risk of diabetes later in life.

Creates a strong emotional bond with the baby:

Every time we put the baby to the breast we give him a “full body hug” and establish an eye contact which builds a strong connection between us and the baby. And what a magical memory it is to see your baby gaze at you while nursing and then releasing the breast and giving you a big smile!

Protects mother from iron-deficiency anemia:

We lose the biggest amount of iron through our monthly periods and because breastfeeding delays the return of our menstruation it protects us from iron-deficiency anemia.

Reduced risk of “Baby Blues”:

A nursing mom has a different “chemistry” in her body. Lactation and breastfeeding stimulate oxytocin hormone release, which is responsible for feeling love towards our baby and everyone around! At the same time prolactin, the milk-making hormone, reduces stress tension and makes mothers feel calm. Thus, breastfeeding fills our hearts with love and peace, which reduces the chances that we would feel sad or depressed anytime after birth.

Saves money and allows us to sleep better at night:

Buying formula is an expensive affair, especially if baby needs a special type. In addition, doctor’s visits are costly too. On average a formula fed baby will be getting sick around every other week while an exclusively breastfed baby rarely gets even one fever before he starts solids and water at 6 months! And we all know that the hardest nights are those when the child is sick and crying! So having a healthy child definitely improves our sleep as well as cuts down the costs!

Makes mothering easier!

Any time a baby seems upset or unhappy the best and easiest solution for a breastfeeding mom is to offer him the breast! Most babies would be happily satisfied whatever their reason of sadness was: hunger, thirst, stress, fear, insecurity, desire to fall asleep, feelings of loneliness, need of human touch and closeness, or even pain somewhere – our milk has oxytocin hormone in it, which is also a pain killer!

Breastfeeding is a true miracle, a relationship that equally benefits both mother and child. It is much more than just nutrition – it is a way of mothering and a manifestation of love! And if you decide to experience it in your life please remember that learning about it before giving birth will greatly help avoid any problems on the way! (And if you do have any, please always know that you can call me any time – every difficulty in breastfeeding can be resolved and every mother can have full milk supply!

-Nadiya Dragan El-Chiti,
Experienced Nursing Mother
Trained and Certified by World Vision in “Exclusive Breastfeeding”

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