We all know that there are numerous benefits of breastfeeding. Babies that are breastfed are less likely to be obese, don’t develop allergies to the same degree, and get antibodies from their mother’s breastmilk that protect them early in life, when their immune systems are so fragile. They also end up testing higher on cognitive tests, years after nursing has ceased.
Despite knowing all of this, sometimes it feels like all these benefits come straight out of your bones. The exhaustion, constant hunger, the planning involved in pumping at work and nursing in public can be a lot for a working mother, particularly when older siblings are in the picture.
I know all of this because I am in the midst of nursing my toddler. Just the other day I fell asleep sitting up in a chair while breastfeeding him. My little guy is not much of a sleeper in general and on top of that he had an ear infection so the previous night was sleepless at best. I only nodded off for a moment, but it showed me how tired I had been. There I was snoozing away with a toddler crawling out of my lap to find entertainment elsewhere.
At one year old, he is the age that my daughter was when I weaned her, but I always felt like I weaned her too early and I want to go longer with him. We’re keeping at it, despite sharp teeth and the easily distractible nature of a toddler. It’s our cuddle time, our time for just him and me, and I want to give him that respite in our chaotic house. And I also know that many studies show that the benefits of breastfeeding extend out to two years of nursing and beyond.
Better still, the health benefits of nursing extend beyond the baby and actually benefit the Mother too. I’m not talking about on an emotional level (though that’s certainly a part of it); I’m referring to recent studies regarding a breastfeeding Mother’s health later on in life. Here is a synopsis of what has been found:
- Breastfeeding actually reduces the chances of a Mother becoming obese later. Though it is not known why this occurs, perhaps it has to do with the enhanced ability to lose our baby weight via calories burned from making milk.1
- In line with the reduction in obesity, the chances of developing type 2 diabetes is also reduced. Again this could be the result of losing weight gained during pregnancy, though there is also some evidence that insulin sensitivity is also better in women that breastfed.2
- Breastfeeding also reduces the chances of developing certain types of cancer. Studies have shown that breastfeeding reduces the incidence of reproductive organ cancers (uterine, ovarian, endometrial) and breast cancer.3
- Contrary to what you might think, breastfeeding also reduces the chances of developing osteoporosis. Even though your baby’s bones are growing at a rapid rate, that’s not because it’s leaching out from yours.4
So the next time you’re feeling run down, drained and overtaxed, remember that breastfeeding doesn’t just help your little one, it’s also good for you too. And even Moms, with all of their selfless child-rearing, need to take care of themselves.
Here’s to your health.
Photo Credit: Author
Jill runs Healthy Kiddo Snacks, a blog that promotes healthy natural snacks for kids. She is also a researcher in the diabetes field at the University of Arizona and teaches Biology classes for the local community college. She has two delightful kiddos, a one year old boy and a four year old girl, that make life fun. She lives in Tucson with her wonderful husband and kids, and loves yoga and cooking with her family.
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Statements on this website have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products and/or information are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease. Readers are advised to do their own research and make decisions in partnership with their health care provider. If you are pregnant, are nursing, have a medical condition, or are taking any medication, please consult your physician. Nothing you read here should be relied upon to determine dietary changes, a medical diagnosis, or courses of treatment.
- BMI, CVD and mortality: The long term effects of childbearing and breastfeeding on body mass index in middle aged women results from the Million Women Study. K. Bobrow, M. Quigley, J. Green, G. Reeves, V. Beral, J Epidemiol Community Health 2009;63:56 doi:10.1136/jech.2009.096727d. ↩
- Lactation and Maternal Risk of Type 2 Diabetes: A Population-based Study. Eleanor Bimla Schwarz, Jeanette S. Brown, Jennifer M. Creasman, Alison Stuebe, Candace K. McClure, Stephen K. Van Den Eeden, David Thom, The American Journal of Medicine – September 2010 (Vol. 123, Issue 9, Pages 863.e1-863.e6, DOI: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2010.03.016). ↩
- Study: Breastfeeding Decreases Cancer Risk ↩
- Alicia Dermer, MD, A Well-Kept Secret: Breastfeeding’s Benefits to Mothers ↩