There is a reason that breastmilk is known as nature’s “liquid gold.” It is pure magic, full of antibodies to help protect and fight off viruses and bacteria while serving as the optimal nutrition for baby. Of course, nursing is a personal choice and just as every child is unique so are their needs. If mom chooses to nurse she may be happy to find that baby isn’t the only one benefiting!
With the hormonal changes happening throughout pregnancy, one may think the hormonal rollercoaster will stop once baby arrives. However, nursing releases two distinct hormones: Prolactin and Oxytocin. While Prolactin signals your body to produce milk for baby, it also inhibits ovulation. Nursing mothers often find their cycle takes months to a year or more to return. Though it is not a 100% effective form of contraception, nursing keeps your period at bay so you can play when you are ready and wear white with abandon.
Oxytocin, also released while nursing, is lovingly known as the “happiness hormone.” The surge of Oxytocin while nursing helps mom fall in love and bond with baby on a deeper level. This happy hormone can also help mothers with Postpartum Depression (“PPD”). Consistently nursing results in a consistent release of Oxytocin, keeping mom happy while avoiding the hormonal fluctuations that can cause PPD. (1)
Reduce, Reuse, Contract
If that weren’t enough, Oxytocin also helps mama more easily recover from childbirth. After delivering the placenta, mama is often encouraged to nurse baby for the first time. The uterine contractions caused by the release of Oxytocin help close the blood vessels the placenta was attached to more quickly, thus reducing bleeding. A severe drop in blood pressure caused by excessive bleeding can be life-threatening, which is why it is so important that the uterus contract whether that be naturally or through the use of uterine massage or synthetic hormones. (2) Nursing right after birth may be a bit uncomfortable, but the slight cramping is merely the Oxytocin doing its job so mama can love up on her baby while her body heals from childbirth.
Use it and Lose it
Nursing baby requires more calories, about an extra 500 per day, which may keep mom from losing weight or cause her to gain some the first three months postpartum. However, once mama’s hormones have leveled out nursing may help her lose weight as baby’s demand for milk increases. Nutrition and exercise remain the pillars of health and weight loss (if that’s what mom wants) and nursing baby can help her use those extra calories and lose some weight in the process. (3)
Serve and Protect
Nursing has been shown to give mom long-term protection against a variety of diseases including breast cancer, ovarian cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. Each year mom breastfeeds results in a 4.3% decrease in breast cancer risk alone and an additional 7% per birth. (4) Nursing over 12 months in a lifetime accounts for a 28% lower risk of both breast and ovarian cancer. (5) How incredible! When they serve their natural purpose, breasts help protect mom while they make the nourishing milk that protects baby. Talk about heroes!
Nursing is often categorized by how it benefits baby. Though the benefits are incredible and seen through adulthood, the benefits to mom are just as significant. Cheers to nursing, as it helps keep mom happy and healthy on her breastfeeding journey and throughout her life!
How do you feel about breastfeeding? Are there benefits we missed? Want us to cover more? Let us know in the comments below!
Pictures: exclusive breastfeeding baby Julissa (4 months) with her mom at Tybee Beach