Publicity about the benefits of breast-feeding has prompted many women who might otherwise have weaned their babies after a few months to continue to nurse them for six months or longer. The benefits to the baby of breastfeeding are not in question. They include improved resistance to infection, less risk of allergies and, presumably, psychological comfort. But what about the mother?
A new study monitored psychological, physical and sexual factors among 19 Australian mothers every day for two months before and two months after they weaned their first babies.
Among those who were not pregnant at weaning time, stopping nursing was associated with a significant decrease in fatigue, improved mood and an increase in sexual feelings and activity, the women’s diaries revealed. But no such improvement in physical, psychological or sexual well-being was noted among the five women who became pregnant before they stopped nursing.
The researchers, from the University of Sydney and Macquarie University in Australia, reported their findings in a recent issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology, an American journal. They suggested that the post-lactation decline in fatigue alone could account for the women’s improved moods and increased sexual interest, since fatigue is known to have an adverse effect on the libido.