Think you need to follow a strict diet to shed the baby weight? Maybe not. Breastfeeding is a great way to shed a few of those unnecessary pounds after birth. That’s according to Ashley Pritchett, a registered nurse and lactation consultant for Tidelands Health. While it’s no secret that breastfeeding offers a multitude of benefits for baby, it’s also good for mom. Here are eight ways breastfeeding benefits moms:
1. Less bleeding after birth
Pritchett says women who breastfeed immediately after birth experience less postpartum bleeding. That’s because breastfeeding stimulates the body to release oxytocin, a hormone that causes the uterus to contract.
2. Less stress
Not only does breastfeeding stimulate the release of oxytocin, it also prompts the release of a second hormone called prolactin. Both hormones help a mother relax and focus on her child.
3. Decreased cancer risk
Mothers who breastfeed experience lower rates of breast and ovarian cancers later in life. One study found that for every 12 months a mother breastfed, her risk of developing breast cancer dropped by about 4 percent.
4. Lowered risk of other health concerns
Breastfeeding has also been found to help combat other serious health risks, including diabetes, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.
5. It's convenient
Breast milk is available on demand. It’s warm and ready when the baby is hungry. There’s no need to get up in the middle of the night to sterilize a bottle and mix formula. You don’t have to carry bottles, formula and water in your diaper bag. “A mother can just grab her baby and nurse wherever she is comfortable,” Pritchett said.
5. It's free
Breastfeeding saves families with newborns an average of $1,800 a year since there’s no need to buy formula and other supplies, Pritchett said.
6. No Periods
Mothers who exclusively breastfeed may not start their periods as quickly after delivery as mothers who don’t breastfeed. Prolactin keeps the hormones estrogen and progesterone at bay so ovulation isn’t triggered.
7. Less missed work
Pritchett says breastfed babies tend to experience fewer ear infections, upper respiratory infections and other illnesses. As a result, breastfeeding mothers tend to miss less work to care for sick children.
8. Weight loss
Breastfeeding burns a lot of calories, which allows a mother to supplement her usual diet with extra calories and continue to lose pregnancy weight. In fact, nursing mothers need to consume 400 to 500 additionally calories daily so their bodies have the energy required to make milk.
Despite the benefits for moms, breastfeeding can be difficult. It is a commitment and takes time for both baby and mother to learn and adjust. If you’re struggling to nurse, seek out a professional lactation consultation who can help. Every mother who gives birth at a Tidelands Health hospital can benefit from the help of a lactation consultant, one of the reasons why Tidelands Waccamaw Community Hospital has earned the prestigious designation of Baby-Friendly, an initiative created by the World Health Organization and UNICEF to promote breastfeeding and mother-baby bonding.