September 30 2016
How Breastfeeding Can Help You Improve Your Mental Health
This article is a guest post written by Andrea Bell. You can learn more about her at the end of the post.
Breastfeeding is the best gift a mother could give to herself and her baby. To me, breastfeeding is not a choice it’s a huge responsibility. The benefits of breastfeeding have been well documented and there is no denying breastfeeding is important for the health of both the child and the mother. You will be surprised to know that the benefits of nursing include the promotion of optimal health throughout the mother’s and the child’s lifespan. Many of you might not know that human milk has numerous disease-fighting and health-promoting elements that provide both nutrition and protection. We all know how good mother’s milk is for the baby, but what we don’t know is, breastfeeding has long-lasting effects on women’s health as well, and the benefits of nursing tend to remain with mothers for years after they’ve weaned their last child.
Let’s briefly go through the points how breastfeeding helps the mother:
- Hands down, this alone can be the reason why every mother should consider nursing her child. Breastfeeding creates a loving bond and enhances attachment between the mother and the baby. Whenever a mother nurses her baby, she releases the hormone oxytocin. This hormone not only helps a mother release her milk, but it also makes her fall in love with her baby. This phenomenon is also called the “mothering” hormone.
- Breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancers. It also reduces the risk of osteoporosis.
- Many new mothers nowadays take their post-delivery weight very seriously. The extra weight that comes naturally after delivering compels new mothers to go on crash diets (which can be extremely harmful to both the mother and the baby) and other weight losing plans and options. But why adopt artificial ways when you have a natural way to lose post pregnancy weight? Did you know breastfeeding helps mothers lose weight faster? Producing milk for a single baby requires 500 calories. It has been observed that the greatest weight loss takes place between three and six months post-partum.
- Along with other benefits, breastfeeding is reported to be good for mothers’ mental health. Each day, each year, thousands of women who embrace motherhood worldwide become depressed after delivery. The projected figures highlight that somewhere around 10 to 20 percent of new mothers’ face depression. Mothers, who face loneliness, lack of support from spouse and other family members and especially the anxiety for mothers to return to work soon after birth, increases depression drastically.
Luckily, there has been a major change with regard to depression and breastfeeding. A few decades ago, breastfeeding was not even on the table for post-partum depression for practitioners. In fact, many practitioners told new mothers and mothers-to-be that they don’t need to be supermoms and that formula milk was just fine. Also, they needed the sleep which is very important for them to heal, and, in order to heal quickly, they needed to wean. We often get to hear some of that still, but it is less common now as new research on the benefits of breastfeeding surfaces.
The role of breastfeeding in protecting mother’s mental health
Research over the past few decades has shown that nursing and depression intersect in some surprising and interesting ways. The research highlights that breastfeeding does not deplete mothers, nor does it cause depression. Many mothers report feeling relaxed while breastfeeding. That’s because nursing activates the release of the hormone oxytocin.
Breastfeeding and stress
Nobody likes to remain in stress because it simply doesn’t make us feel good. You may have also observed that stress, at times, interferes with the way our body functions. But even if you are in stress, it should not prevent you from breastfeeding. Do not believe those who tell you not to breastfeed your child if in stress.
Several studies have shown that nursing mothers have reduced levels of stress hormones in their bodies and enhanced levels of hormones that nurture feelings of overall well-being. Your ultimate goal should be to feel good about yourself. Every day you need to remind yourself that you are doing the most crucial job in the world; nurturing a human life.
BrainTest can be helpful for new mothers who feel depressed at some point after delivery or when they are at a risk of PPD (post-partum depression). It is a self-administered test that quickly and reliably checks how well you are thinking and how well your memory is working.
Breastfeeding and sleep
Being a new mother can be way too overwhelming. From your body to your daily routine, everything just changes. The most common issue that new mothers face is sleep deprivation. They don’t get to sleep enough and on top of it, when the baby just doesn’t seem to stop crying, things become more chaotic for mothers to handle. According to a research, mothers with mental health issues such as post-partum depression who don’t get enough sleep are at a greater risk of severe form of depression.
For many years, there remained an impression that breastfeeding mothers get less sleep. However, it’s the other way around, nursing mothers get more sleep. Especially those mothers who breastfeed exclusively.
A few studies indicate that there is something physiologically unique about exclusive breastfeeding than mixed feeding. It certainly does not mean that mixed-feeding is discouraged. Mothers should do exactly what is suitable for them and the baby. But it has been observed that mothers who are mixed feeding may be sleeping less and not getting the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding i.e. stress-reducing effects.
How breastfeeding changes your brain
Massive changes occur in the brain of a nursing mother. Once a mother decides to wean, evidence suggests that their brain is never the same again. Various studies on animals report that breastfeeding totally re-plots the map of the brain. In the similar quest, two neuroscientists from a recognized institution, University of California, showed through a study that in the cortex of a mother rat, the area near the chest of the animal increased in size while the rate was nursing. Scientists believe the same thing happens in humans. Similarly, researchers believe that nursing mothers show a greater level of (brain) responses to baby’s cry compared to mothers who feed formula milk to their kids in the first month after delivery.
As mentioned above, nursing your baby makes a lot of difference, and nursing is not limited to milk production only. The crux is, nursing is much more than providing nutrition to the baby. Breastfeeding changes the dynamics of the mothers’ brain, and it won’t be an understatement to say that nursing a baby makes mothers more efficient, more intelligent and more empathic, not to mention that it does wonders for their health too.
Author Bio: Andrea Bell
Andrea Bell is a blogger by choice. She loves to discover the world around her. She likes to share her discoveries, experiences and express herself through her blogs.
Find her on Twitter:@IM_AndreaBell.