Breastfeeding aids maternal physical and emotional health. Breastfeeding and depression in the mother are associated. Mothers who successfully breastfeed are less likely to develop postpartum depression.
Hormones released during breastfeeding help to strengthen the maternal bond. Teaching partners how to manage common difficulties is associated with higher breastfeeding rates. Support for a breastfeeding mother can strengthen familial bonds and help build a paternal bond.
Exclusive breastfeeding usually delays the return of fertility through lactational amenorrhea, although it does not provide reliable birth control. Breastfeeding may delay the return to fertility for some women by suppressing ovulation. Mothers may not ovulate, or have regular periods, during the entire lactation period. The non-ovulating period varies by individual. This has been used as natural contraception, with greater than 98% effectiveness during the first six months after birth if specific nursing behaviors are followed.
Breastfeeding releases beneficial hormones into the mother’s body. Oxytocin and prolactin hormones relax the mother and increase her nurturing response. This hormone release can help to enable sleep. Breastfeeding soon after birth increases the mother’s oxytocin levels, making her uterus contract more quickly and reducing bleeding. Pitocin, a synthetic hormone used to make the uterus contract during and after labour, is structurally modelled on oxytocin. Syntocinon, another synthetic oxytocic, is commonly used in Australia and the UK rather than Pitocin.
It is unclear whether breastfeeding causes mothers to lose weight after giving birth.
Reduced cancer risk
For breastfeeding women, long-term health benefits include reduced risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and endometrial cancer