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Beyond "Breast is Best" - How Breastfeeding Affects Mothers


The world of breastfeeding is often painted solely with the rosy brush of "breast is best." While countless benefits exist for babies, what about the impact on moms? As a passionate breastfeeding advocate and veteran of the nursing journey, I believe informed mothers are empowered mothers. So, let's peek beyond the usual narrative and explore the complex tapestry of breastfeeding's effects on moms, both positive and negative.


Health Benefits: A Mother's Reward


Breastfeeding isn't just a win for babies; it's a long-term investment in your own health. Studies show it can:


  • Slash Cancer Risk: Over time,breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast, ovarian, and even endometrial cancer. The longer you breastfeed, the greater the protection.

  • Shield Your Heart: Research suggests breastfeeding lowers your risk of developing cardiovascular disease,including high blood pressure and diabetes.


  • Strengthen Your Bones: While a temporary dip in bone density can occur during breastfeeding, studies show the long-term benefits outweigh this.


These are just a few of the health boons mothers reap from breastfeeding. Remember, the magic lies in the "dose-response" relationship - the longer you breastfeed, the bigger the potential health benefits.


Health Risks: Knowing the Challenges


Like any journey, breastfeeding has its hurdles. Here are some potential risks to be aware of:


  • Joint Pain and Discomfort: The hormone relaxin lingers during breastfeeding, sometimes causing aches and pains, especially in joints.This risk increases with long-term breastfeeding.


  • Nutritional Deficiencies: Vitamin D and potassium needs increase during breastfeeding. Be sure to supplement or eat plenty of sources like bananas and spinach to avoid issues like fatigue and muscle cramps.


  • Blurred Vision: Some moms experience temporary water retention, leading to vision changes. Don't hesitate to seek medical advice if this occurs.


Remember, most risks can be managed with awareness and support. Don't let these risks alone deter you from exploring the many benefits of breastfeeding for as long as it works for you and your family.


Psychological Rewards: A Nurturing Bond


Breastfeeding isn't just about nourishment; it's a powerful bonding experience. Research shows it can:


  • Reduce Stress and Anxiety: Mothers who breastfeed often report feeling calmer and less stressed than those who formula-feed.


  • Boost Sleep Quality: Studies suggest breastfeeding can lead to longer and deeper sleep for moms, particularly in the early postpartum months.


  • Enhance Maternal Sensitivity:Breastfeeding mothers tend to be more responsive and touch their babies more, fostering a strong emotional connection.


These psychological benefits can contribute to a happier, healthier mother-baby relationship and overall well-being.


Psychological Challenges: Acknowledging the Difficulties


Breastfeeding isn't always sunshine and rainbows. Here are some potential challenges to be prepared for:


  • Feeling "Touched Out": Some moms experience feeling overwhelmed by constant nursing. It's okay to set boundaries and take breaks!


  • Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex (DMER): This condition is thought to affect as many as 1 in 10 nursing mothers. It triggers anxiety and sadness during or after breastfeeding. Do not hesitate to seek support and healthcare advice if you experience this.


  • Reduced Libido: Hormonal changes can lead to decreased sex drive for some moms. Remember, this is temporary, and open communication with your partner is key.


Openly discussing these challenges helps to normalize them and ensures that we all receive the support that we need.


Informed is Empowered: Breastfeeding Your Way


Breastfeeding is a deeply personal journey, not a one-size-fits-all prescription. Every mother and baby is unique, and their breastfeeding experience will be too. The key is to be informed about both the benefits and risks, so you can make the best choices for yourself and your child. Remember,  your well-being matters just as much as your baby's.


Embrace the complexities of breastfeeding. Celebrate its magic, acknowledge its challenges, and most importantly, nourish yourself as you nourish your little one. This ancient, precious practice deserves both respect and realistic expectations.


Let's move beyond the, "Breast is best" rhetoric and create a supportive space for open conversations about the true realities of breastfeeding. Together, we can empower mothers to navigate this journey with knowledge, confidence, and self-compassion.


Explore the rest of this blog to read titles like, 'How to Manage a Trip Away from Your Breastfed Baby or Toddler,' 'Back to Work and Breastfeeding,' and 'How to Stop Breastfeeding Gently & Responsively.'


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