It's common knowledge that breastfeeding is an amazing, beneficial act for both you and your child. Not only are you providing your child with the necessary nutrients they need to survive and grow and flourish, but you're bonding with your baby and (honestly) saving money on expensive formula. Yes, everyone knows that breastfeeding is great, but did you know about all the weird things breastfeeding does to your body?
I don't necessarily mean "weird" in a bad way. After 10 months of extremely awkward pregnancy side effects, the affects of breastfeeding will seem like nothing more than a mile annoyance. But, nevertheless, breastfeeding sometimes does unplanned and surprising things to your body, and like every other part of pregnancy, labor, delivery, and postpartum life, knowledge is power. It's best to know what you could possibly be putting yourself and your healing body though before you get going. Because yes, breastfeeding is beautiful and wonderful and magical, but for many women breastfeeding is frustrating and exhausting and, in some cases, really, tremendously hard.
Here are just a few of the weird, amazing, and cool (if sometimes frustrating) things that breastfeeding does to the rest of your body.
Back And Shoulder Pain
The common back and shoulder pain many women experience while breastfeeding has less to do with the act itself, and more to do with the position women are in when they help their child latch and feed. If you're hunched over or not completely supported, your back and shoulders are going to suffer. Obviously, you want to put yourself and your baby in a position that will assist you both in successfully breastfeeding, but that shouldn't end with intense and sharp pains.
Many breastfeeding women suggest using pillows, a couch or a chair to give your back the support it needs. It's best to not lean forward to breastfeed. Instead, try lying down for side-breastfeeding or putting something under your baby's head for additional support.
When you breastfeed (and yes, this is incredible) calcium is siphoned directly from your bones to fortify your milk, ensuring that your baby gets the good stuff. Great news for your little one, yes, but this does put you at mild risk for osteoporosis. The average calcium loss for any woman who breastfeeds for at least six months is 5 to 10 percent of their bone mass. No need to worry, though. Your body knows what it is doing, and after you're done breastfeeding, your calcium levels will go back to normal.
Just like back and shoulder pain, this has less to do with the act of breastfeeding itself and more to do with how you position your baby or your body when you do. In an attempt to position their baby so they can breastfeed effectively, women often hold their baby's heads, essentially holding their wrists at a 90 degree angle as pressure is applied. Ouch.
Try to relax while breastfeeding, and use other methods (pillows, etc) to support your baby's head while they're feeding, so you don't have to position your wrist at such an awkward angle.
While breastfeeding, many women will experience increased postpartum bleeding. Nipple stimulation and breastfeeding can caused a woman's uterus to contract (which is why, if you're attempting to naturally induce labor, nipple stimulation is highly recommended).
This is a good thing, and it means that your body is responding in natural and necessary ways, but it can sometimes be painful (cramps) and can be a pain (extra pads). It won't last forever, which is great news, and before you know it, postpartum bleeding will be a thing of the past.
On average, your body burns 20 calories per one ounce of breastmilk produced. If your baby eats 19-30 ounces of breastmilk a day, that means that, on average, you're burning 380 - 600 calories per day. What does this mean? Food. All the food things.
Breastfeeding Can Help You Lose Weight
Because you burn extra calories while breastfeeding, and because your uterus contracts when you breastfeed, many women claim that breastfeeding helps lose weight after giving birth. Of course, not every woman experiences this, and hopefully you aren't putting too much pressure on yourself to kick the prenatal pounds you packed on, but breastfeeding definitely has this effect on a lot of people.
Breastfeeding Can Keep The Weight On
When breastfeeding, your body is working overtime to produce the nutrients your baby needs. This means, for some, that your body will store fat in order to produce enough breastmilk to meet the demands of your baby. Your body will also suppress its ability to metabolize, in an effort to store stimulate milk production.
Don't let a few extra pounds (or a few pounds that will stay with you for an extended period of time) deter you from trying to breastfeed. Just like any other symptom of pregnancy or child birth, it is temporary, and your body is doing everything it needs to do in order to sustain your new little friend.
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