Breastfeeding Topics

Benefits of Breastfeeding for Moms

We all know breast is best for baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months; followed by continued breastfeeding for at least 12 more months as complementary foods are introduced.

The benefits of breast milk for babies are well documented, but did you know breastfeeding is beneficial for moms too?

Benefits are many, researchers continue to find more, and they go far beyond emotional gains.

Breastfeeding Benefits for Moms

Emotional Satisfaction
Breastfeeding can make a mom feel relaxed due to the release of the hormone oxytocin. Studies have found oxytocin promotes nurturing as well as relaxation.

Breastfeeding also provides an intimate bond between mom and baby (skin-to-skin contact), and a chance for moms to relax with their little ones. Physical contact helps newborns feel secure, warm, and comforted.

Prevention of Postpartum Hemorrhaging
The release of oxytocin also causes uterine contractions, which help slow the bleeding after delivery and help restore the uterus to its original size. Mothers who don’t breastfeed are typically given artificial oxytocin to prevent excessive hemorrhage.

Helps Lose Pregnancy Weight
Breastfeeding burns extra calories, so it will help you lose weight gained during pregnancy. On average, the production of milk requires between 200 and 500 calories per day.

Reduced Stress and Risk of Postpartum Depression
The National Institute of Health concluded women who didn’t breastfeed or stopped early had a higher risk of postpartum depression.

Reduced Risk of Some Cancers
Studies have found the longer a mom breastfeeds, the more they are protected against breast and ovarian cancer. How breastfeeding helps reduce these cancers is not entirely clear, however a few theories are:

  • • It causes hormonal changes, such as a decrease in the level of estrogen. Lower levels of estrogen may decrease a woman’s risk.
    • It suppresses ovulation. Women who have fewer menstrual cycles during the course of their reproductive lives may have less risk.
    • It causes physical changes to breast cells, making them more resistant to cancer-related mutations.
    • It causes an increase in prolactin (a hormone responsible for milk production), which blocks a gene that makes breast cancer more aggressive.

More research is needed, but there is a connection at play.

Other studies have found breastfeeding may reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and cardiovascular disease.

Natural Contraception
Exclusive breastfeeding can provide a natural form of contraception. A lot of moms don’t begin to ovulate again while their baby is exclusively breastfed. However, it should not be your only form of birth control if you want to wait to have another child.

Practical Advantages
Breast milk is convenient – it is always warm, ready, in the right proportion for a baby’s needs, and contains the perfect nutritional combination of vitamin, fats, and proteins. It goes where you go, and if needed, can be pumped and stored for later use.

Deciding to breastfeed is a very personal choice. But its clear breastfeeding provides many benefits for both mom and baby. If you decide to nurse, you can feel confident – and happy – about the choice you’ve made.

Breastfeeding Advice: Engorged Breasts

It’s completely normal to have full breasts when you are just beginning to establish breastfeeding. Full breasts occur because your milk supply is developing and you haven’t established a regular breastfeeding routine.

If breasts feel hard or swollen, are throbbing, lumpy, uncomfortably full, or painful, they are likely engorged. The swelling can sometimes extend all the way to the armpit. If left untreated, it can turn into a breast infection or mastitis, which often causes nursing mothers to feel flu-like symptoms.

Causes of Engorged Breasts

Nursing moms experience engorged breasts for various reasons. Waiting too long to initiate breastfeeding or, not being able to able to nurse their baby frequently or thoroughly enough to drain breasts in the first few days after your baby’s birth can cause this painful condition. So can obstructed milk ducts. Engorged breasts can also be from incorrect latching, resulting in milk being left behind in the breast, and is common if weaning happens abruptly.

If severe, it can make it difficult for the newborn to latch properly and feed well. As a result the baby may not get enough milk, breasts may not empty completely, and nipples may become sore or cracked.

Symptoms of Engorged Breasts

Some common symptoms of engorged breasts of engorged breasts include:

  • • Swollen, firm, and painful breasts
  • • When severe, breasts may appear swollen, hard, shiny, warm, and slightly lumpy to the touch
  • • A hard areola or flattened nipples
  • • Fever
  • • Swollen or tender lymph nodes in armpits

Engorged Breast Prevention

Not all mothers whom breastfeed experience engorgement. KellyMom has some suggestions to reduce the chances of becoming engorged:

  • • Breastfeed early and often
  • • Make sure the baby is positioned and latched properly
  • • Let the baby finish nursing on one breast before switching to the other
  • • Avoid introducing a bottle or pacifier in the first month
  • • If your healthcare professional has advised you to supplement with a bottle, use pumped breast milk
  • • If a feeding is skipped or the baby doesn’t nurse well, hand express or use a breast pump to remove the milk as frequently as the baby would nurse

Relief for Engorged Breasts

There are many techniques to relieve engorged breasts.

  • • If your breasts are engorged, it’s important to continue to breastfeed frequently
  • • Most mothers find frequent nursing helps relieve any discomfort
  • • If breastfeeding isn’t an option, try expressing a little milk by hand or with a pump. Don’t be afraid to pump as it will not make the problem worse. It will help relieve some pressure, and make it easier for the baby at his or her next feeding
  • • Gently massage your breasts before and during nursing or while you pump. Use the palm of your hand and start from the top of your chest and gently stroke the breast downward in a circular motion towards the nipple
  • A cabbage leaf compress is a popular home remedy to relive discomfort from engorgement

If engorgement isn’t relieved by any of the above measures, or you begin to experience symptoms of mastitis, contact your health care provider.