5 Reasons Breastfeeding Is Good for You

You’ve heard that breastfeeding is great for your baby, but what’s in it for mom? It turns out there are many reasons breastfeeding is good for you, too.

Your choice to breastfeed your baby may be based on the overwhelming evidence that breastfeeding is a healthy option for your baby. And that’s absolutely true! But what you may not know is that breastfeeding is a great choice for your health, too.

August is National Breastfeeding Month, when health organizations raise awareness of the many benefits of breastfeeding. There’s also special recognition during Black Breastfeeding Week, which is celebrated Aug. 25-31. In the Black community, breastfeeding rates tend to be lower, according to an article from the University of Chicago Medicine.

Breastfeeding in the Black community

Cultural barriers for Black mothers may come from the historical practice of enslaved women serving as wet nurses and breastfeeding others’ babies, according to the article, which shares expertise from Obstetrician and Gynecologist Perpetua Goodall, M.D., and Pediatrician Angela Holliday-Bell, M.D., both with UChicago Medicine.

Perpetua Goodall, MD, Obstetrician and Gynecologist with UChicago Medicine. Photo credit: UChicago Medicine.

Robust marketing efforts and promotions geared toward lower income and Black families may also play a role in formula use, say the experts. “The tradition of using formula gets passed down and you have generations of women who didn’t breastfeed and who may not encourage breastfeeding in the next generation,” they say, adding that a shift in attitudes may be underway.

Benefits for mom are significant

Physicians at UChicago Medicine encourage all new moms to breastfeed, and discuss with patients why they should consider breastfeeding as the primary form of feeding.

Breastfeeding’s benefits to baby are significant and compelling, but what’s in it for mom? Here are five reasons why breastfeeding is beneficial for moms.

1. Reduced risk for disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and some forms of cancer are less common in women who breastfeed. Breast cancer, specifically, is more common among mothers who do not breastfeed. For each year a mother breastfeeds, the risk of invasive breast cancer reduces by more than 4%, and mothers who never breastfeed were 32% more likely to develop ovarian cancer, according to information from the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Angela Holliday-Bell, MD, Pediatrician with UChicago Medicine. Photo credit: UChicago Medicine.

2. Hormones do their work. The production and release of breastmilk engages hormones in a mother’s body that are health promoting and increase emotional bonding. The hormone oxytocin helps a mother’s uterus contract after birth and reduces vaginal bleeding. Oxytocin also reduces stress and creates a sense of calm, according to information from the National Library of Medicine.

3. Calorie burn promotes weight loss. Moms who exclusively breastfeed can burn up to 600 calories a day, just by producing milk. (For comparison, that’s about an hour of vigorous jumping jacks, according to MyFitnessPal.)

4. The price is right. Breastfeeding is free, and families who breastfeed save between $1,200-$1,500 on infant formula in the first year, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. This savings doesn’t include the potential decrease in medical costs for babies who have fewer illnesses, thanks to breastfeeding.

5. No need to worry about the effect on breast shape. Most moms hear anecdotally that breastfeeding causes saggy breasts, when in reality, pregnancy causes most breast changes, according to information from Medical News Today. Age and genetics also influence breast shape, but regular exercise (to strengthen supporting chest muscles), eating a healthy diet, not smoking and practicing good posture can help keep your breasts looking their best after pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Content brought to you by UChicago Medicine. Learn about UChicago Medicine and Comer Children’s unique approach to caring for women and children. Discover UchicagoMedicine.org.

Claire Charlton
Claire Charlton
An enthusiastic storyteller, Claire Charlton focuses on delivering top client service as a content editor for Chicago Parent. In her 20+ years of experience, she has written extensively on a variety of topics and is keen on new tech and podcast hosting. Claire has two grown kids and loves to read, run, camp, cycle and travel.

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