Breastfeeding practices positively impact the mother’s health and health behaviors post-partum over the short- and long-term.
The short-term benefits are initiated following delivery as the breastfeeding begins with oxytocin release:
- Allows for a more rapid recovery from the stress of parturition
- Reduces blood flow, leading to anemia prevention as iron stores are less depleted
- Allows for lactation-induced ovulation suppression that offers a significant contraceptive benefit, a form of natural “birth control”
The long-term, breastfeeding benefits may include:
- Reduces the risk for diabetes, breast, and ovarian cancers
- Regaining of pre-pregnancy weight in a shorter time period
- Reduces risk of obesity and osteoporosis
- Increases diligence with prenatal, pediatric and the children’s health care
- Raises the awareness for the health care and social service systems, sometimes for the first time
Breastfeeding goes beyond the nutritional provision that is backed with adequate evidence for health benefits.
The act of suckling at the breast has an impact on both child and mother, as it is shown in a study in adopted children who suckled at the adoptive mother’s breast. The non-nutritional aspects of breastfeeding allow for a calming and analgesic response during the suckling process in the form of a physical and social connection between the infant and the mother:
- The infant’s oropharyngeal tactile- and mechanoreceptors are stimulated, while the release of cholecystokinin activates an afferent vagal mechanism that induces relaxation and pain relief
- Maternal skin-to-skin contact that consequently stabilizes blood glucose levels, body temperature and respiration rates, aids neurobehavioral self-regulation, and reduces stress hormone release and blood pressure
- Intimate social interaction, which may result in the release of the anti-stress hormone oxytocin that allows a relaxing and analgesic experience for the mother as well
Breastfeeding practices play a role in community public health, since the significant benefits encompass the physical, psychological, social, economic, and environmental aspects of health and well-being for the infant and the mother, AND IT SHOULD BE SUPPORTED BY ALL!
The body of supported work is overwhelming on this topic, yet there is not enough understanding in the general community.
Be healthy & happy, Dr. Tijana