Conversations about breastfeeding often center on the many health benefits to new babies.
We’re learning new and exciting things about breastfeeding all the time by way of scientific studies, medical reports, personal experiences and such. There’s even evidence that social media has played a substantial role in spreading awareness about the benefits of breastfeeding.
Here’s a look at some of the unique ways moms can benefit from breastfeeding.
Cost-effective baby food
When you do the math, it’s not hard to appreciate the financial advantages of breastfeeding versus baby formula.
Here’s some simple arithmetic:
Let’s say your new baby drinks 4 ounces of formula every four hours. That’s 24 ounces a day—a relatively average amount for the typical baby.
Your average-priced container of powder formula at a big box retailer is about $35. It contains roughly 30 ounces of powder, which makes about 240 fluid ounces of formula. So it could potentially feed baby for about 10 days.
This means you’d have to buy three of those each month. A total cost of $105 per month. Some brands will cost less and some will cost more.
But based on this example, if you breastfeed exclusively for the first six months you’d save more than $630. If you go the full first year, as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics, you’d save $1,260.
Breastfeeding can also help with mother-child bonding. When mom breastfeeds, she releases the hormone oxytocin.
This interaction can benefit mom and baby.
A World Health Organization study’s take on oxytocin: “Oxytocin also has important psychological effects, and is known to affect mothering behavior in animals. In humans, oxytocin induces a state of calm, and reduces stress. It may enhance feelings of affection between mother and child, and promote bonding.”
It’s also worth observing that breastfeeding makes you sit down, relax and focus on your baby, which in itself can be a calming interaction.
Reduced cancer risk
Researchers are beginning to pinpoint exactly how breastfeeding may lower a mom’s risk for breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
A study by the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health found an increased risk of certain types of breast cancer in women who do not breastfeed.
The study, involving women from the U.S., Canada and Australia, found that women who did not breastfeed had about 1.5 times the risk of developing these types of cancer.
“If women breastfed their children, there was no increased risk for ER/PR-negative cancer,” said Meghan Work, an author of the study. “This is particularly important as breastfeeding is a modifiable factor that can be promoted and supported through health policy.”
A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that prolonged breastfeeding could reduce the risk of ovarian cancer.
Breastfeeding may also lower a mom’s risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.
Up to 9% of women will experience gestational diabetes while pregnant, which in turn increases their risk of later developing Type 2 diabetes.
A study in California, which followed more than 1,000 moms who experienced gestational diabetes, found that “women who exclusively breastfed or mostly breastfed were about half as likely to develop Type 2 diabetes as those who didn’t breastfeed.”
I’ve already written about this topic in the past, but I’ll mention it again here: There is evidence that breastfeeding moms may face a lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life.
A University of Oxford study found that longer duration of breastfeeding corresponded to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
“Women who breastfed had lower (Alzheimer’s) risk than women who did not breastfeed,” the study noted.
Turning the focus to babies for a moment: If you were breastfed as a baby, it could positively impact your cholesterol. One study that followed premature babies to their early teens found they had lower cholesterol levels when compared to formula-fed babies.
But here again, moms can benefit, too.
Breastfeeding moms typically return to their pre-pregnant weight faster, given that their body is burning more calories as they breastfeed a growing baby.
New studies like these emerge every day, which only strengthens the favorability of breastfeeding over formula, if this is possible for the new mom.