breastfeeding benefitsMost people know that breastfeeding is good for the baby. Breastfed babies receive a head start on fighting bacteria and viruses from cells they receive from their mothers. Babies who are breastfed overall have stronger immune systems, fewer cases of respiratory problems, asthma and allergies, and fewer ear infections than babies who are not breastfed.

But what about moms? It turns out that moms receive great benefits from breastfeeding as well.

What are the financial and emotional benefits for moms who breastfeed?

Let’s start with the financial benefits. Mothers who breastfeed don’t need to buy formula (which can cost between $150-$500 a month), sanitize nipples, or warm bottles. And as breastfed infants usually need fewer sick care visits, prescriptions, and hospitalizations, mothers save time and money on hospital visits. Breastfeeding also gives moms regular time to bond with their newborn, which promotes a strong emotional attachment that can reap psychological benefits as the baby grows.

What are the health benefits of breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding releases the hormone oxytocin, which helps shrink the uterus to pre-pregnancy size. It burns extra calories (20 calories per ounce), so it can help moms lose pregnancy weight faster. Breastfeeding also lowers the risk of some cancers, such as breast and ovarian.

In fact, a new study published in June 2017 in the Journal of the American Heart Association shows that breastfeeding may help mothers decrease their risk of stroke and heart attack up to ten years after giving birth.

The researchers studied approximately 300,000 women in China for nearly a decade. Women who breastfed their babies had a lower risk of having heart disease during the study period compared to women who did not breastfeed. While the research points to a strong connection between breastfeeding and lower heart disease risk, women who don’t breastfeed won’t necessarily develop heart problems.

Researchers aren’t certain if there’s an ideal length of time to breastfeed in order to gain the greatest benefit for heart health. In China, women breastfeed for a year on average, which is longer than women in the West, who breastfeed for about six months.

Breastfeeding can be challenging. If you have questions or need support, talk to your health care provider who can help answer questions and point you to resources.