Woman breastfeeding(Photo: Courtesy of The Bump)


No, it's not just you -- everyone really has been talking about breastfeeding lately. (And not just thanks to Gisele's latest comments.) August is National Breastfeeding Month, which is why TheBump.com is spreading the word about the many eye-opening benefits of breastfeeding. Think you've heard it all? Think again. We asked board-certified lactation consultant Dawn Cedrone to weigh in on the most surprising pros to nursing, and we're pretty amazed by what we heard. Read on for what she had to say (and get ready to think of your boobs in a whole new light).

1. You'll feel far less crazy (we promise!)

A study of new mamas found that those who breastfed their babies showed far less anxiety at one month postpartum than those who didn't. Here's why: Breastfeeding (plus skin-to-skin contact with baby) causes an increase in two key hormones -- oxytocin and prolactin -- which help lower your blood pressure and the stress hormone cortisol. "This will lead to lower levels of anxiety, stress, and fatigue in new moms," says Cedrone, who also owns the consulting firm NewBornMom Breastfeeding Solutions in Livingston, NJ. What's more, Cedrone adds that a recent Australian study found that breastfeeding mamas actually spend more time in deeper levels of sleep than those who bottlefeed. (And as most moms know, a good night's sleep is a sanity saver in and of itself in those first few months with baby.)

2. It lowers the risk of childhood cancers

"The immune-stimulating and increased antibody effects of breast milk have some amazing protective properties," says Cedrone. In fact, formula-fed babies are eight times more likely to suffer from a childhood cancer than babies who are breastfed for longer than six months. What's more, a 1989 study showed that even babies who breastfed for just one month lowered their risks of developing one of the two major forms of childhood cancers -- acute myeloid leukemia and acute lymphoblastic leukemia -- by 21 percent.

3. ...And breast cancer in mamas!

According to research, if women who breastfed for less than three months were to stick it out for 4 to 12 months, breast cancer among premenopausal women could be reduced by 11 percent. And if they stayed with it for 24 months or longer, those risks could be cut by nearly 25 percent. How come? Believe it or not, no one's really sure. "Some researchers feel that the engorgement caused by not breastfeeding actually changes the breast tissue, which is what increases the risk of developing breast cancer," says Cedrone.

4. Smart kids rule

Studies show that breastfed babies have significantly higher IQs in adulthood than babies who didn't breastfeed -- even after adjusting the stats for differences between groups and mom's educational and social class. "Although, some suggest that emotional, social, and attachment factors all affect these increased scores," says Cedrone. "Just look at the chemistry of breast milk: It has cholesterol, DHA, and other good fats that are known to insulate the nerve linings in the developing brain." In addition, breast milk boasts the special sugar galactose, which is known for being essential in brain tissue development.