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.