We're on to breastfeeding: God's intended food for babies; and as I am about to discuss, God's intended way to heal a woman from the physical trauma of birth...
Since we're talking about the fertility of a healthy woman, I won't take the time to discuss all the wonderful benefits of breastfeeding for children, though it is not hard to find information on it. I will say, though, that supplemental formula is NOT the "next best thing."
The way breastfeeding works into a woman's fertility, and overall health, begins right at birth. The uterus, which has just spent the last 40 weeks growing from less that one pound to almost 20 pounds is all stretched out and has worked harder than any other muscle in a woman's body. Everything that was inside it is now gone and all you have left is a big empty worn out bag. Breastfeeding, if attended to immediately after birth will help a woman's uterus to work itself back into shape, and will also help eliminate the after-bleeding that can cause a woman to hemorrhage after birth.
It does this because nipple stimulation causes the hormonal release of natural oxytocins, the hormone responsible for uterine contractions. Some women who practice extended breastfeeding (up to two years and beyond) have been known to rely on their nursing toddlers to help augment a stalled labor instead of resorting to the synthetic version of oxytocin: Pitocin, the ob-gyn's drug of choice. Pitocin is also used regularly, even in women who've birthed naturally, to contract her uterus because doctor's take our babies away immediately after the birth to do all sorts of tests. But the natural nursing relationship of mother and baby is strong enough on its own to shrink down the uterus, work out the placenta, and close up the bleeding openings that the placenta leaves behind on the uterine wall.
Breastfeeding is so effective at shrinking a woman's uterus, in fact, that the "after pains" that came from nursing my newborn Olivia were so severe that I was in tears each nursing session for three days after her birth. She was an expert eater from the moment she was born, and my uterus shrank back to an immeasurable size before I left the hospital.
A less immediate benefit of nursing is the Amenorrhea, or lack of menstrual period, that it creates. A woman who is exclusively breastfeeding her baby will experience this Amenorrhea for the first 2 months to 2 years after birth. That does not mean that there won't be after-bleeding, or lochea, which is present after every vaginal birth for about 3 to 6 weeks, but once the lochea is finished there will be a break in the woman's "monthly" cycle.
HAVE NO FEAR! Caspar, I'm not about to go on and on about how we can rely on this to space our children, though it is very effective for that (so effective I was night-weaning Olivia in order to conceive our next dearly longed-for baby due this September).
But, as I mentioned in Part 1, the hormonal break that the uterus enjoys during pregnancy is continued during the nursing relationship as well. It has been studied that breastfeeding will in fact reduce your chances of breast cancer. And if that isn't good enough, it also reduces the risk of other reproductive cancers in woman as well.
I hope that this information has been interesting to learn, and that I might have shed some light on things that aren't generally known. There are even more things about a woman's natural fertility that I have found fascinating since I started studying it three years ago, but at this moment more pressing things are upon me and this post has sat as a draft long enough.
I'm going to go share popsicles with the 18 month old result of my healthy fertility since she has a 102 degree fever, and I don't want her to get dehydrated. :(
Thanks for reading.