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Health 5 August 2017
By: Natasha Tanga

Why Breastfeeding is Essential to Motherhood

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Most of us know that breastmilk is liquid gold; it nourishes and protects your baby  inside out without the help of formula feed, and the best part is that it is totally free. However, it doesn't only have a ton of benefits for your baby, but for you as a mother, too! In conjunction with World Breastfeeding Week, we list down a number of benefits you can get as a mother who breastfeeds your baby.

1. Promotes mother-child bonding

The relationship between mother and child is rooted in the interactions of breastfeeding. The emotional health of the mother may be enhanced by this relationship she develops with her infant during breastfeeding, resulting in fewer feelings of anxiety and a stronger sense of connection with her baby. 

During breastfeeding beneficial hormones are released into the mother's body and the maternal bond can be strengthened. A woman's ability to produce all of the nutrients that her child needs can provide her with a sense of confidence. This feeling sets the health and psychological foundation for both mother and baby for years to come.

 2. Helps shed postpartum weight

Breastfeeding appears to reduce the risk of obesity. Mothers who breastfeed are more likely to return to their prepregnancy weight than mothers who formula feed. This hapens because mothers burn many calories during lactation as their bodies produce milk. In fact, some of the weight gained during pregnancy serves as an energy source for lactation.

As the fat accumulated during pregnancy is used to produce milk, extended breastfeeding for at least 6 months, can help mothers lose weight. However, weight loss is highly variable among lactating women; monitoring the diet and increasing the amount/intensity of exercise are more reliable ways of losing weight.

3. Acts as a natural birth control

Breastfeeding may delay the return to fertility for some women by suppressing ovulation. A breastfeeding woman may not ovulate, or have regular periods, during the entire lactation period. The period in which ovulation is absent differs for each woman. This lactational amenorrhea (not menstruating) has been used as a natural contraception, with a greater than 98% effectiveness during the first six months after birth if specific nursing behaviors are followed. This is allegedly more effective than all other modern contraceptive methods combined. 

Women who nurse frequently during exclusive breastfeeding do not menstruate longer than infrequent nursers. However, depending on the person, it is possible for some women to ovulate within two months after birth while fully breastfeeding.

4. Releases feel-good hormones

Breastfeeding releases oxytocin and prolactin, hormones that relax the mother and make her feel more nurturing toward her baby. Breastfeeding soon after giving birth increases the mother's oxytocin levels, making her uterus contract and return to its normal size more quickly and reducing bleeding.

5. Helps reduce chances of reproductive organs-related cancer

Research has shown that nursing for six months or more negates the risk of getting reproductive cancer. Prolonged nursing also lowers a woman's lifetime risk of ovarian and endometrial cancer, probably because it suppresses ovulation and the ovulatory hormones during those first few months that she nurses exclusively.

Among both premenopausal and postmenopausal women, risk of breast cancer decrease with increasing duration of lifetime lactation experience although the effect was consistently stronger for premenopausal women. However, studies has shown that women who lactate for a total of two or more years reduce their chances of developing breast cancer by 24 percent.

Moreover, breastfeeding is also shown to give a protective effect against uterine cancer, decrease ovulatory age and thereby decrease the risk of ovarian cancer, as well as provides a hypoestrogenic effect with less stimulation of the endometrial lining, which may offer a protective effect from endometrial cancer.

6. Helps develop stronger bones

Research has shown that breastfeeding may slightly reduce mothers' risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis later in life.

7. Saves money and invest on babies' future health

Breastfeeding is among the most cost-effective of feeding your baby. Households save money and environment thrives by reducing the need for bottles and formulas.

In the long run, since breastfed babies are healthier, the mothers miss less work and spend less time and money on pediatric care. This greatly helps reducing healthcare costs to family in doctor visits, prescriptions, over the counter medicine purchases, and hospitalization.

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