All the while you are nurturing your baby, you are also nurturing your own body, specifically your bones. Breastfeeding makes your bones stronger. This is the short version of how it works.
While you’re breastfeeding, it’s normal to lose some bone density. This is because during lactation, your estrogen levels are lower and that affects calcium absorption. However, by two years postpartum, breastfeeding mothers completely regain their bone loss.
In fact, your breastfeeding mother’s body replaces bone loss with fresh, new bone. That replacement growth repairs tiny micro fractures which makes your bones even stronger. As a bonus, several studies confirm that breastfeeding for longer durations further improves your bone strength. For women who breastfed nine months or less, there was a three percent increase in bone. Women who nursed between ten and twenty-four months had more bone growth, though at a slower rate. *
This benefit goes way beyond the time of your nursing days. “16-20 years after their last child was born, women whose lifetime breastfeeding duration was at least 33 months had hip and tibia bone strength indices…significantly better than those of women who breastfed for shorter duration.”**
If your baby doesn’t want to wean yet, there’s good reason to continue. You’ll be reducing your risk for osteoporosis and fractures. You can stand tall, literally, for yourself and your family.
A healthy diet and regular weight bearing exercise is still important for bone and overall well being. Avoid smoking, excessive soda, regular use of steroids and you further reduce your risks. Nature invests time and resources in healthy women so we will be there to nurture our healthy children. You can be a sturdy mother and later, a sturdy grandmother.
Nature plans for success and you, as a healthy woman, are an important part of that success.
*Hopkinson JM, Butte NF, Ellis K, Smith EO. Lactation delays postpartum bone mineral accretion and temporarily alters its regional distribution in women. J Nutr. 2000; 130(4):777-783.
**Chapman,DJ. Longer Cumulative Breastfeeding Duration Associated with Improved Bone Strength Journal of Human Lactation Feb. 2012;28(1) 18-19
Paton LM, Alexandre JL, Nowson CA, Margerison C, Frame MG, Kaymakci B, Wark JD Pregnancy and lactation have no long-term deleterious effect on measures of bone mineral in healthy women: a twin study. Am J Clin Nutr 2003;77:707-14