No respectful woman asks the question out loud, certainly not pregnant women who want to feel they possess the selflessness required for motherhood! But it’s a great questionand one that has unfortunately been ignored by breastfeeding advocates. It’s a great question because there are GREAT answers. Important answers. Hugely significant answers!
The truth is– breastfeeding is as beneficial (if not more beneficial) for the mother as it is for the baby. I think most women would be shocked to know both the short and long-term rewards of breastfeeding that apply to them… and only them.
The short-term advantages to nursing are impressive:
1. Back in Shape. One of the most pressing concerns for many new mothers is how they are going to get their pre-pregnancy body back. Breastfeeding begins to address this goal immediately. Right after birth, when the baby suckles, the body releases the hormone Oxytocin, which in addition to releasing breast milk to the baby, also causes the uterus to contract. These contractions initiate uterine involution, or the return of the uterus to its normal size, which helps guard against postpartum hemorrhage and is the beginning of a return to a flat stomach.
Breastfeeding requires about 200 to 500 calories per day. These are calories burned just by the body’s metabolic processes associated with nursing. In order to get an equivalent calorie burn, a non-nursing mother would have to swim 30 laps or cycling uphill for an hour. Not too shabby! This is probably why studies show that nursing mothers lose more weight and keep the weight off better than non-nursing mothers.
2.Child Spacing.Breastfeeding delays the onset of menstruation. Where a non-nursing mother usually gets her period in six weeks, a mother who is nursing exclusively (without supplementation) can experience a delay of up to six months. For these mothers, the effectiveness of breastfeeding as a form of birth control is 90-98% effective for the first six months after a birth. This is a huge benefit compared to non-nursing mothers, who must start contraception within those six weeks of delivery.
Oh, yes…and it’s good for the baby, too!