Breastfeeding: What's in it for Mothers?

by Kathleen Kendall-Tackett, PhD, IBCLC, RLC, FAPA
, Breastfeeding Today, August 2016

A colleague recently sent me an Op-Ed from the Washington Post written by a group of mental health professionals who had horrid personal breastfeeding experiences and concluded that breastfeeding was too hard and didn’t make that much difference any way. Now they encourage all the mothers in their practice to wean. Think about that. How many women have needlessly been told to wean because of these women’s negative experiences? Unfortunately, it’s another example of an anecdote being used as evidence. Their experience was bad, so they generalize that for everyone, and it’s impacted thousands of women.

The underlying assumption is that there is no benefit for mothers when they breastfeed. It’s something I’ve heard in mental health circles for years—and it’s absolutely wrong! In terms of survival of the species, it doesn’t make sense that breastfeeding would only benefit the baby. Mothers may not be inclined to do something that does not benefit them and that wouldn’t be good for the baby. So it makes sense, in terms of survival, that mothers and babies both get something out of breastfeeding.