12. More effective vaccines
Research shows that breastfed babies have a better antibody response to vaccines than formula-fed babies.
13. A menstruation vacation
Breastfeeding your baby around the clock—no bottles or formula— will delay ovulation, which means delayed menstruation. “Breastfeeding causes the release of prolactin, which keeps estrogen and progesterone at bay so ovulation isn’t triggered,” Kelly explains.
“When your prolactin levels drop, those two hormones can kick back in, which means ovulation—and, hence, menstruation—occurs.”
Even if you do breastfeed exclusively, your prolactin levels will eventually drop over the course of several months. Many moms who solely nurse will see their periods return between six and eight months after delivery, Kelly adds; others don’t for a full year.
14. Less time off work
Your baby will be ill less often, so that means fewer sick days for you.
15. It’s cheap!
According to La Leche League International, the cost of formula can range anywhere from $134 to $491 per month. That’s $1,608 to $5,892 in one year!
16. A great way to learn about your baby
“You have to read your baby’s ‘satiety cues’ a little better, because unlike with a bottle, you can’t see how much he’s eaten,” Kelly says. “You have to rely on your own instincts and your baby’s behavior to know when your baby is full.”
17. You can stash the condoms—for now
Breastfeeding can be 98 percent to 99 percent effective as a post-baby birth control option if a few guidelines are followed: Your period must not have resumed; you must breastfeed at least every four hours around the clock; you must not give your baby any pacifiers, bottles or formula; and you must be less than six months postpartum.
According to Kelly, nighttime feedings are the most important to the “lactation amenorrhea method,” so do not let your baby (or yourself ) sleep through a feeding. “Going long stretches at night without nursing seems to be directly responsible for the return of ovulation,” she says. Prematurely sleep training your baby can also hasten ovulation.
18. There’s nothing easier
Simply pull up your shirt and nurse. Breast milk is always available and always at the right temperature.
19. Benefits for all
According to a study published in the journal Pediatrics, the United States would save about $13 billion per year in medical costs if 90 percent of U.S. families breastfed their newborns for at least six months.
20. Better friendships
“Breastfeeding helps cultivate relationships with other moms,” Kelly says. Whether it’s talking about parenting styles, nighttime feedings or engorgement, nursing allows women to forge positive postpartum relationships. Adds Kelly, “Women are supposed to be sitting together, nursing and taking care of babies.”
Carole Anderson Lucia is a contributing editor in Fallbrook, Calif.