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Breastfeeding: Relative Benefits for the Mother

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Breastfeeding: Relative Benefits for the Mother  

I am pregnant and going to have my first child. What are the pros and cons for me from nursing my infant?

Breastfeeding has several physical and psychological benefits for the mother. These benefits include helping to: (references 1-4)

• Reduce uterine bleeding and speed return of uterus to normal size after giving birth and delay menstruation, thereby lowering the loss of blood

• Delay return to ovulation, thereby reducing risk of an immediate pregnancy

• Hasten loss of weight to achieve the weight prior to pregnancy

• Lower the risk of breast cancer during the mother’s life

• Lower the risk of ovarian cancer during the mother’s life

• Possibly improve bone remineralization, thereby lowering the occurrence of osteoporosis and hip fractures after menopause

• Fortify an emotional bond between mother and child

On the other hand, breastfeeding has a few disadvantages for the mother:(references 1, 3-5)

• Nursing can expose the mother to the infant’s germs to which the mother has not been previously exposed. However, the immune system of a healthy mother will produce antibodies and other immune substances to help fight infection in the mother’s body.

• Following the first 6 weeks of nursing, women who are breastfeeding require a higher intake of food and liquid than their non-breastfeeding peers.

• Avoidance of alcoholic beverages is recommended for several reasons. Because alcohol concentrates in breast milk, an infant breastfed by a nursing mother who drinks alcohol could become exposed to alcohol. Also, drinking alcoholic beverages can inhibit the production of milk by the mother. Although a nursing mother occasionally may have one small alcoholic drink, she should avoid breastfeeding for 2 hours after the alcoholic drink.

• A delay in the return to ovulation reduces the chance of an immediate pregnancy

Overall, the benefits of breastfeeding for a healthy woman tend to outweigh the disadvantages. The decision whether to breastfeed is very personal. When considering whether breastfeeding is best for you and your baby:

• See our Q&A on relative benefits to the child.

• See the Policy Statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics on "Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk," in Pediatrics, 2005; 115(2):496-505, which can be accessed at

• See the website of the La Leche League International, www.lalecheleague.org, which provides helpful information about breastfeeding and support.

• Talk to your doctor about your medical history, the needs of your child, and the benefits of nursing your baby.


1. American Academy of Pediatrics, Section on Breastfeeding. Policy statement: Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics. 2005; 115(2):496-505.
2. Lancet. 2002; 360 (9238);1187-195.
3. What are the benefits of breastfeeding my baby? Accessed at www.lalecheleague.org.
4. American Academy of Pediatrics, Work Group on Breastfeeding. Policy statement: Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics. 1997; 100(6):1035-1039.
5. Can breastfeeding prevent diseases? Accessed at www.lalecheleague.org.

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