We all know that breastfeeding is great for a healthy baby, and that is often incentive enough to take a year or two (or more!!) to nurse your child.
There are many ways that breastfeeding boosts the overall health for you as a woman, also. Dr. Sears has a lot to say on this subject (you can find that here), and much of this article is taken from his excellent research.
Reduces the risk of breast cancer. Women who breastfeed reduce their risk of developing breast cancer by as much as 25 percent. The reduction in cancer risk comes in proportion to the cumulative lifetime duration of breastfeeding. That is, the more months or years a mother breastfeeds, the lower her risk of breast cancer.
Reduces the risk of uterine and ovarian cancer. One of the reasons for the cancer-fighting effects of breastfeeding is that estrogen levels are lower during lactation. It is thought that the less estrogen available to stimulate the lining of the uterus and perhaps breast tissue also, the less the risk of these tissues becoming cancerous.
Lessens osteoporosis. Non-breastfeeding women have a four times greater chance of developing osteoporosis than breastfeeding women and are more likely to suffer from hip fractures in the post-menopausal years.
Promotes emotional health. Not only does breastfeeding benefit a mother’s body, it also benefits her mind. Studies show that breastfeeding mothers show less postpartum anxiety and depression than do formula-feeding mothers.
Promotes postpartum weight loss. Breastfeeding mothers showed significantly larger reductions in hip circumference and more fat loss by one month postpartum when compared with formula-feeding moms. Breastfeeding mothers tend to have an earlier return to their pre-pregnant weight.
Costs less to breastfeed. It costs around $1,200 a year to formula-feed your baby. Even taking into consideration the slight increase in food costs to a breastfeeding mother, the American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that a breastfeeding mother will save around $400 during the first year of breastfeeding.
Better healing post-delivery. The oxytocin released when your baby nurses helps your uterus contract, reducing postdelivery blood loss. Plus, breastfeeding will help your uterus return to its normal size more quickly—at about six weeks postpartum, compared with 10 weeks if you don’t breastfeed.
Lower Risk of Depression. One of the most pronounced changes is the increased amount of oxytocin produced during birth and breastfeeding. Oxytocin appears to have long-term anti-anxiety effects. It also encourages bonding by affecting specific brain regions that promote nurturing and relaxation. These effects may also partly explain why breastfeeding mothers have a lower rate of maternal neglect, compared to those who do not breastfeed.
For more reading on benefits of nursing and extended nursing, here is a good article with a link to a facebook support group.