If you're pregnant or new mom, you've probably heard about the many ways breastfeeding can benefit your baby. You might be surprised to learn, however, that you can benefit from nursing, too. In fact, there are more than a few mental health benefits of breastfeeding, even if you only nurse for a few months.
One key to feeling the mental health benefits of breastfeeding, it seems, lies in your own intentions to breastfeed and ability to meet your own breastfeeding goals. According to a 2015 study, published in the journal Maternal and Child Health, new moms who planned to breastfeed and were able to do so successfully had the lowest incidence of postpartum depression (PPD). This protective effect was the strongest after just two months of breastfeeding and diminished over time, which means that even a couple of months of breastfeeding can help protect against PPD if nursing was a part of your postpartum plan. This connection between breastfeeding and maternal mental health is likely, and at lest in part, hormonal, too. Because breastfeeding involves oxytocin — a hormone associated with stress-relief and love — breastfeeding may have a relaxing effect on new moms, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), enabling them to chill out during and after feeding time, and even get more sleep.
While how you feed your baby is entirely personal and depends on so many factors, if you plan to breastfeed or are considering giving it a try, know that breastfeeding for even a few months can improve your mental health. Here's how: