Feeding your baby is like all parts of parenting – you have to figure it out as you go along, it’s harder than it looks, and how you decide to do it is a personal choice.
Everyone has their own right answer when it comes to nursing, bottle-feeding, or formula feeding — and there is no one right way to do it. We promise you’ll be able to nourish and bond with your baby regardless of what way you choose to feed.
In honor World Breastfeeding Week we wanted to talk about some of the best benefits of nursing. We talked about the top benefits of breastmilk for baby’s health and wellness, but it does a lot of good for mom, too!
Perks of Breastfeeding for Moms
1. Accelerated weight loss after birth
Losing baby weight straight away doesn’t need to be the first thing on your mind after birth, but we know it weighs (pun not intended) on many a new mom’s mind. In fact, losing that baby weight within the first year after birth is in the best interest of your longterm health, but that process looks a bit differently for everyone.
You’ve probably heard that breastfeeding can help with weight loss efforts — but is it really true? Research has shown that women who breastfeed burn an extra 500 calories a day. Studies have shown that women who nurse find it easier to get down to their pre-baby weight without calorie-restriction, and they also find it easier to maintain that weight over time. Remember that everything operates best when in balance; a healthy diet and regular exercise have to be part of the equation as well.
2. Your uterus will thank you
Believe it or not, breastfeeding actually helps your uterus recover from giving birth! Breastfeeding releases a hormone called oxytocin (this is also what helps you and your baby (and your partner!) bond), and it causes your uterus to contract. It takes about 6-8 weeks for your uterus to return to its normal size, which is why that ‘baby bump’ doesn’t go away right after birth. But breastfeeding can help with that!
When your uterus contracts, you may experience a bit of cramping, but those contractions are actually helping your uterus return to its pre-pregnancy size and it also reduces the uterine bleeding women commonly experience after birth.
3. Reduce your cancer risk
Studies have suggested that long-term breastfeeding reduces your risk of developing both ovarian and breast cancer. This is pretty exciting stuff, however, breastfeeding is just one factor that may reduce your risk. Healthy lifestyle habits overall are so important; in fact, the American Institute for Cancer Research estimates that a third of breast cancers in the U.S. can be prevented by avoiding alcohol, staying physically active, and maintaining a healthy weight. Of course, you may have genetic factors that you can’t change, but being aware of your own disease risk profile and how you can reduce it is what’s key.
4. A natural birth control
When you’re breastfeeding, your body stops ovulating, making it nearly impossible for you to get pregnant. This is called LAM: Lactational Amenorrhea Method, and it’s about 98% effective at preventing pregnancy for the first 6 months after you give birth (or until you start your period again). 98% effective means that there is a chance of conceiving, and nursing women can get pregnant before their first period after birth, but it is very rare.
This can benefit for a lot of women that don’t want to worry about sorting out birth control methods after baby — and because your body and hormones have changed, you may need to change what type of contraception you’re using anyway. Breastfeeding only works to prevent pregnancy when you’re doing it full time, so if you decide that you need to go back on birth control, talk to your doctor about a safe and effective option for you.
5. Protect your mental health
Everyone has a different experience with breastfeeding, but for women who are able to do it successfully, it can have a really positive effect on mental health! Studies have shown that women who breastfed felt more empowered, determined, and confident than others — and it also helped with recovery following difficult or traumatic birth experiences.
According to research, breastfeeding also reduces your risk of postnatal depression (a condition that’s far more common than many people think). Oh, and remember the bonding hormone oxytocin? Your body’s release of it and other hormones, like prolactin, help you to relax and can reduce anxiety.
Unable or Choosing Not To Breastfeed?
We know that a lot of moms don’t breastfeed – whether that’s by choice, due to latching issues, or for another personal reason. We also know that there can be a lot of pressure to breastfeed, and that pressure can negatively impact your wellbeing, but feeding your baby should be an empowering experience.
Not breastfeeding does not mean that you are choosing a less beneficial path, and we’ve got some quick tips on making bottle-feeding a great experience for you and your baby.
How to make the most of bottle-feeding
1. Expressing your own milk
If you’re not able to breastfeed due to latching issues or discomfort, pumping your own breastmilk and bottle feeding can be a great option. There are so many options out on the market now, so be sure to try different methods or styles until you find one that works for you (you’re not bound to the first one you try!). We’ll be honest, pumping isn’t always a fun experience, but you can make it a bit more positive by practicing mindfulness, listening to relaxing music, or watching one of your favorite shows while doing it.
2. Research your formula
If you have to or choose to feed via formula the good news is there are so many incredible brands making great products. There is no bad news actually, but you will have to pick what to try amongst all the good options! The nutritional makeup of formulas can do as much for baby as breastmilk, and it also allows for more personalization if your baby has particular digestive issues that need addressing. Speak to your pediatrician about what’s best for your baby and what they’d recommend, and of course, do your own research on what’s currently available.
3. Prioritizing the bonding moment
One of the most powerful aspects of feeding your baby is being able to be so close to him or her and getting to engage in eye contact. You can do this whether breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, and the bonding is just as powerful if you’re feeding baby breastmilk or formula. Focus on the bonding moment and the fact that you’re nourishing and caring for your little one — because that’s what it’s all about.
Whatever feeding choices you make, try not to compare them to others. Every motherhood journey is different, but all moms should feel confident and as amazing as possible, as you build the happiest and healthiest lives for you and your baby. For more personalized support during motherhood, be sure to download the Baby2Body app (because we’re here for moms, too)!