The milk-producing ability of breasts weakens gradually after childbirth without the stimulation of breastfeeding. When there’s a regular supply of milk to the breasts, mothers can feed their babies sufficiently. Although breastfeeding your child is a personal decision only you can make, breast milk is one of the ideal ways to ensure effective child health and growth. Breastfeeding’s benefits for both mother and child are nearly endless, which will be discussed further on in this post.
Breastfeeding Is Recommended
Many health organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Emergency Funds (UNICEF), recommend mothers must breastfeed their babies within the first hour of birth and feed their babies exclusively with breast milk only for the first six months. After the first six months, food can be introduced to the baby. Breastfeeding can continue as much as often, even with the introduction of foods until after one or two years of age and even beyond, if it’s fine with the mother and baby.
Feeding the baby with breast milk doesn’t only benefit the baby alone but also the mother. Most people are unaware of the benefits of regular milk supply to mothers. If you’re a nursing mother and need some motivation to continue breastfeeding, then this article is for you. Here are several ways mothers can benefit from a regular milk supply to their babies:
- Reduces Postpartum Depression
Mothers who feed their babies with breast milk regularly have a lower risk for postpartum depression. This is a type of depression women experience after childbirth as the delivery can trigger different emotions, from excitement to fear and anxiety.
Unfortunately, many new mothers experience postpartum depression, and it can be mild to severe depression. According to the National Institute for Mental Health, about 15% of women experience postpartum depression within three months of giving birth. If left untreated, postpartum depression can last for months or even years and can lead to difficulty in taking care of oneself and the baby or thoughts of self-harm or harming the baby.
The good news is, regular milk supply and breastfeeding can help reduce postpartum depression. Breastfeeding releases the hormones oxytocin and prolactin, which has antidepressant effects. As long as the baby engages the nipple for milk, oxytocin is released to help the mother feel calm, relaxed, and free from stress. It promotes a strong feeling of satisfaction and well-being for mothers. However, remember to stay hydrated to prevent low milk supply for breastfeeding.
The release of these good hormones fosters emotional and physical fulfillment and bonding between mother and child. This pleasant feeling decreases the chances of the mother going into depression after delivery. However, mothers showing signs of depression should seek medical assistance to help them manage the symptoms and eventually overcome it.
- Help Uterus Shrinkage
During pregnancy, the uterus expands immensely. Your body secretes more oxytocin hormones during pregnancy and while in labor to ease delivery and help the uterus contract gradually to its previous size. After childbirth, breastfeeding and maintaining a regular milk supply help your body to secrete more oxytocin, which is needed to stimulate the rate of uterus shrinkage.
With a regular supply of milk to the baby through the nipple, the oxytocin being released doesn’t only bond the mother with her baby and helps the uterus to contract but also reduces bleeding that occurs after delivery. Hence, the mother is less likely to have iron-deficiency anemia. Therefore, breastfeeding is an effective way to help your uterus jump back to its normal size and stopping postpartum bleeding.
Mothers who bottle-feed their babies with breast milk can also enjoy this advantage by laying the baby on their stomachs with the babies’ feet pointed toward their belly buttons. The movement of the babies’ feet pushing on their stomachs can help in shrinking their uterus.
- Reduced Risk Of Breast And Ovarian Cancer
Breastfeeding may reduce your risk of having breast and ovarian cancer later in life. The act provides a lifetime protection against cancer. Most mothers are likely to be health conscious when breastfeeding and pumping milk from their breasts. It’s common among women who breastfeed to have menstrual delays, which decreases the exposure to estrogen responsible for breast cancer cell growth.
Many studies have proven that the more you breastfeed in your lifetime, the lower your chances of having breast cancer. A collaborative reanalysis research of data from 47 studies in 30 countries shows that mothers who breastfeed reduce their risk of premenopausal and postmenopausal breast cancer.
Besides, a steady milk supply prevents ovulation. The less you ovulate, the fewer your exposure to estrogen and cells that may become cancerous. The longer you breastfeed, the lesser risk you have of developing breast and ovarian cancer.
- Natural Weight Loss
Through a regular supply of breast milk to the child, the mother naturally loses weight easily by burning calories. Depending on the mother’s milk supply, the process of breastfeeding uses up to 500 calories or even more daily to build and maintain milk supply.
New mothers who bottle-feed formula are prone to more weight gain compared to breastfeeding mothers—although the effect isn’t effective in all nursing mothers and the amount of weight loss varies. How much weight you gain during pregnancy may also affect your weight-loss journey after giving birth.
It’s important to seek your doctor’s instructions before going on a personal weight-loss plan, especially if exercise is involved. Remember, anything you do can affect you and your child’s well-being. Losing excessive weight quickly isn’t too good for you and your baby. It affects the rate of milk supply and makes you weak. There are safer ways to lose weight while breastfeeding. You can also support your postpartum weight loss by staying hydrated; eating protein, fiber-rich whole foods, and fruits; and sleeping well.
- Birth Spacing
Exclusive breastfeeding can delay your period from returning within the first three months or much longer after giving birth. It may work as a natural birth control to extend the time between pregnancies. This is an extra benefit for you. As long as you’re breastfeeding, you may not have to worry about menstruating and medications for child spacing.
Feeding your baby with breast milk only within the first six months of birth can serve effectively as a form of contraception. This means the method’s reliable for six months. It may also be effective if your period doesn’t start after the six months.
However, if you wish to go for artificial birth methods, it’s recommended to consult your doctor before choosing one. You may need to avoid some contraceptives containing estrogen. This hormone may reduce the supply of breast milk for mothers—something breastfeeding mothers might want to avoid.
There are several benefits mothers gain from a regular milk supply. Either you’re breastfeeding through bottle-feeding or directly, breast milk provides beyond emotional and physical satisfaction to both mother and child right from the very first feed. It helps reduce postpartum depression, promotes uterus shrinkage, helps in weight loss, and reduces the risks of developing ovarian cancer.
On the other hand, inadequate breastfeeding may cause breast infections, irritation, pain, breast cancer, and more. Last but not least, mothers should always stay hydrated to ensure an adequate supply of milk for their babies. Keep breastfeeding so you and your baby can stay healthy in this period.