Breast-feeding not only delivers health benefits to babies, it also improves mothers‘ health.
The American Academy of Pediatrics reaffirmed its policy on breast-feeding Feb. 27, and in its statement, along with explaining the well-known benefits for babies of being breast-fed, the pediatricians’ group also detailed the evidence for health benefits of breast-feeding for women.
“Both short- and long-term health benefits accrue to mothers who breast-feed,” the policy statement said.
The benefits begin shortly after birth — women have less postpartum blood loss if they breast-feed. The uterus also shrinks back to its normal size more quickly in women who breast-feed, according to the statement.
A mother‘s mental health gets a boost from breast-feeding, too — a 2003 study from Australia showed an increase inpostpartum depression in mothers who did not breast-feed, and those who weaned their babies early.
Breast-feeding has longer-term effects as well.
Research on the effects of breast-feeding on moms‘ abilities to return to their pre-pregnancy weight has been inconclusive because such studies tend to have many confounding factors, such as diet and activity levels. However, one study of more than 14,000 postpartum women who breast-fed exclusively for at least six months found they weighed less on average than those who didn’t breast-feed.
Among women who developed gestational diabetes, studies have found a 4 to 12 percent reduced risk of later developing Type 2 diabetes for each year a woman breast-feeds.
Women who breast-feed for at least 12 months over the course of their life reduce their risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis by 20 percent, and those who breast-feed for at least 24 months cut their risk of developing that condition in half, according to data from the large, long-term Nurses Health Study.
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