14. Free birth control
Breastfeeding can be 98 to 99 percent effective as birth control if a few general 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 (doing so may cause him to nurse less); 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. In the same way, prematurely sleep training your baby can hasten ovulation—which means, of course, that you can get pregnant.
15. Faster familiarity
“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.”
16. Budget boost
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!
17. Just so easy
Simply pull up your shirt and latch your baby on. No mixing or heating of formula necessary—breast milk is always available and always at the right temperature. And it’s in a pretty nice container to boot!
18. Perks for society
According to a recent 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. Even more important, because of breastfeeding’s health benefits, as many as 911 infant deaths would be prevented.
19. Nursing makes you bold
Imgine a pill that gives you the calm under pressure of Olivia Pope—breastfeeding does that. "Nursing ups your stress threshold, likely by increasing your oxytocin and prolactin levels, making moms more stress-resistant," says Jennifer Hahn-Holbrook, Ph.D., assistant professor at Chapman University. Breastfeeding moms have much lower blood pressure readings and are more likely to coolly stand up for their baby's rights than moms who bottle-feed, according to a University of California, Los Angeles study. Helpful next time you need to defend your cutie from a cheek-squeezing stranger!
20. Breastfeeding gets you more shut-eye.
Despite those 3 a.m. feedings (which formula-feeding moms need to rise for too!), you'll snag more snooze time than anticipated. "The hormone oxytocin, released during nursing, has a calming effect," says Amy Spangler, R.N., I.B.C.L.C., author of Breastfeeding: A Parent's Guide. So it'll be easier to conk out after a feeding than if you'd served up a bottle. "Given sleep's importance, the oxytocin effect is an example of how breastfeeding protects the body," Spangler says.
—Additional reporting by Lisa Fields
Related: Breastfeeding guide for whole first year.