Breastfeeding has health benefits for moms

A well-written article in the Globe and Mail this week reports new research findings about the benefits of breastfeeding for moms. You can read the article here:

This research suggests that mothers who breastfeed for at least 6 months have a decreased risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life. In the study, the diabetes risk decreased as duration of breastfeeding increased. Additionally, breastfeeding had a protective effect even for women who had gestational diabetes during their pregnancy (which is a strong predictor of developing type 2 diabetes later in life).

I’m certain there will be more research coming in the future to corroborate these new findings. With 11 million Canadians having either diabetes or prediabetes, it’s great to hear about something a woman can do to help decrease her risk, especially if diabetes runs in her family.

When discussing the health benefits associated with breastfeeding, we often think mostly of the child. This research adds to a growing body of evidence supporting health benefits for mom as well. Other proven benefits of breastfeeding for mom:

  • Lower risk of breast cancer
  • Lower risk of post-partum depression
  • More likely to return to pre-pregnancy body weight

Add to this:

  • The bond between nursing mother and child
  • Easier time with nighttime feedings
  • Increased natural spacing between pregnancies
  • Significant cost savings!

It seems to me there are plenty of benefits for mom, on which we don’t necessarily focus.

There are some challenges, however, to long-term breastfeeding (longer than 6 months). We are so fortunate in Canada to have government-supported maternity leave, now an option for up to 18 months. That’s pretty awesome! However, for moms returning to work, being able to pump milk or feed their babies during breaks is wroght with challenges. Is your break long enough to pump, as well as feed yourself? Where can you pump? Is there a private, clean place available? (No, the staff washroom is not appropriate). Is there a place to store your milk at the correct temperature?

Some women are more fortunate than others in these areas, depending on work environment. Creative solutions are sometimes required. Personally, when returning to work I could find no option for a place to pump at work. My solution was to find a daycare close enough to my workplace to feed my son on my lunch break, at the daycare. It worked for us and I continued to nurse him at lunch time until 18 months. I was also able to continue nursing in general for 3 years. Like other moms, I often think of this accomplishment in terms of benefits to my child’s health. This new research is a great reason to remember all the reasons that long-term nursing was right for me, too.

Are you returning to work and need help coming up with a plan to help you continue nursing? Contact a le leche league in your area for support!

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