The benefits of breastfeeding are pretty well known among breastfeeding mamas but these OLD and NEW discoveries might surprise you.

10 Surprising Benefits of Breastfeeding

It seems that popular wisdom is returning to the benefits of breastfeeding whenever possible – from former IL governor Rod Blagojevich establishing the Right to Breastfeed Act (at least he did something right) to First Lady Michelle Obama urging parents to nurse.

Of course, natural mamas have always known that breast milk is a wonderful form of nourishment for babies, loaded with nutrients and protective antibodies that help them grow and boosts their delicate immune systems and overall health. But every day it seems like researchers discover additional benefits of breastfeeding for both mom and child.

Before we begin – free gift for you

Click here to download my free guide on the 8 Essential Breastfeeding Tools that helped me go the distance 😉

Surprising Benefits of Breastfeeding

Here are ten benefits of breastfeeding, both new discoveries and old, all of which surprised and delighted me.

1. Keeps you pumped up with iron

The benefits of breastfeeding are for mom as much as babies. Amenorrhea or absence of a menstrual period, is normal in all women for the first 4-6 weeks after delivery. However, for women who chose to exclusively breastfeeding, this condition can last at least twice as long as mothers who chose to bottle feed. By not having a period, breastfeeding mothers help to restore their iron supply which takes a significant hit during pregnancy, labor and recovery.

2. Keeps your reproductive organs in good standing

Non-breastfeeding mothers have a higher risk of ovarian, uterine, and breast cancers. This may be due to the repeated ovulatory cycles and exposure to higher levels of estrogen from not breastfeeding. In one study, researchers found that breastfeeding from 6 to 24 months throughout a mother’s reproductive season may reduce the risk of breast cancer by 11 to 25 percent (Lyde 1989; Newcomb 1994). This is incredibly important as breast cancer is the number 2 killer among women in the U.S.

3. Reduces the risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity & other bad stuff

Lead researchers found that mothers who breastfeed for one year and longer were 9% less likely than others to have cardiovascular disease; 12% less likely to have high blood pressure; 20% less likely to have diabetes; and 19% less likely to have abnormally high levels of fats in the blood.

And these benefits of breastfeeding aren’t for mom alone! Breastfed babies, as adults, are have fewer cardiovascular risk factors as they have lower body mass index (BMI) and higher HDL. levels (or “good” cholesterol). Breastfeeding protects against developing chronic diseases such as: celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, asthma, and childhood cancers.

4. Reduces chances for metal in your children’s mouth

Yes! Breastfed children have improved facial muscle development as a result of suckling at the breast. In contrast, formula-fed babies have worse jaw alignment and are more likely to need orthodontic work as they get older. Additionally, breast milk’s bacteria fighting cells actually help prevent tooth decay.

5. Less chance for your child to wear glasses

Studies comparing breastfed and formula-fed infants show that visual development is more advanced in breastfed babies, particularly in premature infants. Many attributed it to the DHA in breast milk which is one of the prime structural components of the retina of the eye. As the breast milk feeds the eyes, it grows and functions better.

6.  Decreased risk of daughter developing breast cancer when older

The benefits of breastfeeding go beyond childhood. Women have a 25% lower risk of developing both pre/postmenopausal breast cancer if they were breast fed as a baby, even if only for a short period of time.

7. Boosts immune system

If you’re like me, you’re wary about exposing your newborn to the host of immunizations for various diseases. But take heart, if you breastfeed your child, he/she will have a stronger immune system and be more resilient to germs, bacteria, viruses, and other exposures.

Additionally, if you do decide to vaccinate, it may give you more peace knowing that breastfeeding increases the positive benefits of vaccination.

8. Helps keep SIDS at bay

A large German study published in 2009 concluded that both partial breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding are associated with a reduction in SIDS. In fact, the researchers determined that exclusive breastfeeding at one month of age cut the risk of SIDS in half.

Another research team in New Zealand shows that SIDS was three times higher in babies who were not breastfed. The risk factor for SIDS from not breastfeeding was even higher than from maternal smoking!

9. More chances that your kid will be a foodie

Do you want to have an easier time getting your toddler to try broccoli? Well, then breastfeed. With the subtle changes in the breast milk, such as when you have that garlic chicken, breastfed babies tend to accept a wide variety of foods when they begin solids compared with formula-fed kids that consume the same flavor day after day after day.

10. Gives you a natural mama high

The benefits of breastfeeding keep getting better! As you nurse your baby, your body releases the hormone oxytocin, which produces calmness and even sleepiness.

This may explain why breastfeeding mothers experience less postpartum depression and have fewer incidences of child abuse and domestic violence. Even better, your body releases endorphins during breastfeeding which contribute to your overall well-being and gives you that natural high.

While not all mothers are able to breastfeed, I hope those that can feel motivated by these benefits of breastfeeding to stick with it in those early days as breastfeeding does get easier!

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  • Freudenheim, J. et al. 1994 “Exposure to breast milk in infancy and the risk of breast cancer”. Epidemiology 5:324-331
  1. Really such a good source of information. Thanks for sharing this info with us. Keep sharing.

  2. Does the same benefits apply to those of us who are exclusively pumping?

  3. Excellent article. I’m doing research on puerperal fever and information like this is very helpful. It’s incredible the things women have to go through. Mothers are one of the wonders of the universe.

  4. I really do have a good read about your post. Thanks for sharing such informative article about breastfeeding. Breast milk is best for your baby, and the benefits of breastfeeding extend well beyond basic nutrition. Keep sharing!

  5. Thanx alot, it is useful

  6. I would like to comment from the perspective of a mom who can’t produce enough milk for her baby. First, let me start by saying it is devastating. You feel like less of a mom, a failure. After all, what kind of mom can’t make enough food for her baby?

    Articles like this make me so sad. I wanted so desperately to exclusively breastfeed my 11 week old. I bought your book and prepared for a natural birth, only to end up on pitocin and when that didn’t work, a c-section. I didn’t take any medications during pregnancy, except tylenol maybe twice. I discovered my first night home with my son as he screamed all night long (even though I was feeding him all night) that I had IGT (insufficient glandular tissue). It is heartbreaking to hear your baby screaming in hunger because you can’t produce enough food for him. It is also heartbreaking to read article after article about how great breastfeeding is for your baby when you have tried literally everything to make it and just can’t because of your anatomy.

    Because of this, I am forced to feed formula. I have come to terms with it now for the most part. I try to overlook the stares and mean comments about formula feeding. Would they rather me starve my baby? I do breastfeed him also, but only produce about 3 ounces total a day. I often wonder if he will receive all the benefits with such a little amount. Will he like lots of different foods? Have the immunity benefits and antibodies, and other health benefits?

    Be thankful if you can EBF, as many people physically can’t. Not only can we not feed our babies, we have to deal with it emotionally, we can’t use BF to help us lose weight and also have to spend a LOT of $$ on formula. I also worry about the ingredients in formula too. If you can EBF (which seems like everybody on this site), please be mindful of your comments to those who can’t. Most people tell me about their OVERSUPPLY when I tell them about my undersupply. This is not helpful. My own mother-in-law did this right after my baby was born. She said she made so much milk she “drown her babies in milk and had to hold a dixie cup under one side as she fed on the other.” These comments were hurtful to a new mom who was crying every time she fed her baby because there was no milk there.

    I’m learning to deal with IGT, and am extremely grateful for my happy, healthy little man! I hope this comment helps people realize the other side of the spectrum 🙂

    • I don’t know what you must be going through and your comment touched my heart and made me sad.. But I applaud you.. You’re a wonderful mom. You feed your baby however it is possible 🙂

    • You are doing a great job mama! Not everyone can breastfeed exclusively and that’s okay, it’s why formula was invented. You just keep being the awesome mom that you are and do your best to ignore the negativity.

    • You are doing a wonderful job. Keep it up. I am sure any type of breastfeeding is beneficial. I just wanted to add that I too was worried about the formula issue – in case I couldn’t produce. I go to a naturalpathic doctor for my RA and asked her about organic safe formulas. She gave me a recipe to make on my own. So I am suggesting maybe trying to find a holistic doctor in your area or research this more. Get it from a trusted source but there is another option than using formula. FYI-even if you are not BFE, still keep any receipts that you use for BF. You can still write these off on your taxes. Good Luck.

    • Thanks for sharing this, you are clearly a wonderful and loving mother. And the love you have for your child will be absolutely the most important thing for his health and wellbeing.

  7. Breastfeeding has been such a blessing to us. It has helped me loose weight and get back to my old looking self. Also such a naturally better way to up baby’s immunity. Overall even though we had our ups and dowwns I am glad I am still nursing little one and have no plans to stop soon! 🙂

  8. This is such an optimistic post! I like it a lot. I’d add that breastfeeding doesn’t have to be uncomfortable and painful, and in my experience often a tongue tie can cause an infant to struggle and cause problems during breastfeeding. This is something easily rectified with a lingual frenectomy.

  9. I wish your link to La Leche League at the bottom wasn’t broken. ?

  10. I’ve personally *never* loved breastfeeding but it’s far more convenient than having to go out and buy formula (let’s not even mention what they use for ingredients) and bottles, mixing, cleanup etc. Added bonus: when I wake up for our 1 a.m. feeding to find we have no power I just changed a diaper by lantern light then curled up in the recliner with my 11-week-old to nurse her before cuddling under a warm blanket to keep us both warm.

  11. Calorie burning! Three months postpartum with my first I was fifteen pounds UNDER my prepregnancy weight. When number 2 arrived it only took a month to return to that weight even though I had gained more weight than the first time! The female body is awesome!

    • I actually GAINED weight nursing exclusively with both my children. I lost little to no weight from labor and then gained from there. The weight did not leave til I quit nursing, 1 yr+ later. It is not universal that ppl lose weight from nursing, as I was very discouraged to discover. I just want to put this out there for other new moms who might have the same experience, because after being told from all sides that nursing would help with weight loss, I felt like there was something wrong with me when it didn’t happen and I actuallly gained. (On a normal, healthy, hungry nursing mamma diet.) I know other ppl now who have the same story, but it was surprisingly tough to not be “one of those ppl” who loses weight while nursing.

      • I also gained weight while nursing. I lost weight during both pregnancies (had a 8 pounds and a 9 pounder. both healthy boys) but gained weight while nursing. AND went down a cup size verses what I was told about going up haha I make milk like a cow and still managed to lose a cup somewhere in the process hahaha

      • Bethany, very true comment. I too, lost all pregnancy weight immediately following my delivery but gained it back in 2 months, while exclusively breastfeeding my daughter. All my friends were saying that I’ll loose the weight while BF but it wasn’t the case.

  12. I am interested in this study on it being a contraceptive. I am 15 weeks postpartum and have just concluded my second period since I finished my pp bleeding. I am exclusively breastfeeding and have been from day one. I’ve also had three different friends who exclusively breastfed and ended up with children less than a year apart because we’ve all been taught breastfeeding will keep you from having a period and/or work as a contraceptive. I think there needs to be more warnings that breastfeeding does NOT always work and I highly doubt it’s success rate is 98% as claimed. Otherwise though I am loving nursing my little boy! I wish he would take pumped milk from a bottle so I could go out with his daddy from time to time and leave him with Nana but hey, it’s kind of a nice feeling to be wanted so badly. 😉

    • These books might help you understand why you have had cycles return: and

      I have the first one and not the second – I don’t know you would need both but it might have been trying to pump that caused your cycle to return so soon. Basically your body knows to suppress ovulation from the frequency and intensity of the sucking of the infant. Pumping is less intense sucking that nursing. Also, use of pacifiers or having baby sleep in a different room could have to do with it too. Of course individuals can chose to do any of these things but doing them for some will mean a quicker return of fertility. Some women can pump and not have cycles for months and some women have to strictly follow all 7 standards of ecological breastfeeding to have a delay of fertility. Hope that helps!

    • My doctor told me for breastfeeding to be used as contraception, you must be feeding at regular intervals around the clock, ie: every 3-4hrs day AND night. If your baby starts sleeping longer stretches through the night, it becomes less and less of a reliable contraceptive.

  13. I LOVE breastfeeding and it always baffles me when people choose not to, I mean not even give it a go! The benefits are overwhelming and the bonding is amazing, so convenient too, it’s right there with you when you need it. We co sleep too so even better overnight no getting up. Sadly, I notice when I’m out and breastfeeding so many other mums using Formula. Now I know that some people have no choice but I personally know quite a few people who chose to formula feed, one in particular, started off breastfeeding and then introduced formula meaning she slowly weaned to full formula but the time the baby was a few weeks old! Her excuse was its too hard! Disappointing. But I guess if people are finding it difficult, please please stick with it baca use it gets a lot easier

  14. In addition to all the awesome benefits of ingested breast milk, it was nice having a natural remedy at the ready for eliminating foreign particles from her eyes, clearing up diaper rash, and using as an awesome healing agent for minor cuts/scraps!!

    Breast milk is AMAZING!!!

  15. Breastfeeding helps a toddler reconnect & calm down – easy tantrum fix!

  16. Sharing some comments on this post from my Facebook page.

    Jessica Villa King
    I am an RN, and before my son was born I would’ve gone on and on about all the scientific health benefits of breastfeeding, but now that I have my darling 3 month old in my arms I would definitely say-BONDING!!!

    Gina Mac Gillis-Hirt
    Nothing like a healthier and faster weight loss for Mommy!! Burns a bunch of calories!! Did I mention lowering your risk of BREAST CANCER??

    Angie Schuelke
    I nursed for two years, my child is now five, and he has never had to go to the doctor for being sick. The immune boosting benefits alone are worth it.

    Jessamina Longislandgoddess
    I’m nursing my 20 month old, and love the cuddle time w/my
    on-the-go daddy’s boy!

    Jenny Sarafin
    There are so many reasons why, and first and most important would be how healthy it is for baby in so many ways. It’s nutritious, provides antibodies, no chemicals or artifical ingredients, gentle on baby’s tummy, changes to accomodate baby’s needs over time. etc, etc. I also love the bonding and the convinience of it. Baby is hungry and food is readily available. And it’s free! Can’t beat that!

  17. Never runs out or goes off, always with you… simple, quick, effective tool to help calm them/make them sleepy. Less poo. Poo smells better. The poo and spit up doesn’t stain. It keeps you lactating, which means you always have an antibacterial cleanser/ointment/tonic that can be used on anybody and any body part to soothe, heal and rejuvenate. I could go on like this all day!! I love breastfeeding!

    • Oooo!!! I really like your points here… I have noticed that Griffin’s pooh smells like yogurt, which ain’t too shabby, and his spit up doesn’t stain. More reasons to love breastfeeding!

  18. More sleep!!! No getting up and making a bottle and all that. We co-sleep as well, so all I needed to do in the middle of the night when my boys got hungry is pull up (or down) my shirt and roll over and cuddle. We would both usually go back to sleep while they were still nursing….lol. But of all the things that new parents wish for, I believe more sleep is probably #1 and breastfeeding provides it!!!

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About the Author

Genevieve Howland is a childbirth educator and breastfeeding advocate. She is the bestselling author of The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth and creator of the Mama Natural Birth Course. A mother of three, graduate of the University of Colorado, and YouTuber with over 75,000,000 views, she helps mothers and moms-to-be lead healthier and more natural lives.

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