Transcript: How Can Breastfeeding Enhance or Protect a Mom’s Health After Giving Birth

This is a text transcript from The First Time Mum’s Chat podcast. The episode is called How Can Breastfeeding Enhance or Protect a Mom’s Health After Giving Birth and you can click on the link to view the full episode page, listen to the episode and view the show notes.

Welcome back to First Time Mum’s Chat. I hope you had an enjoyable festive season and I wish you and your family well for a prosperous 2024. I’ve enjoyed having a short break and I’m feeling refreshed and ready to bring mums helpful and exciting content during 2024.

I’m kicking off this year with a second chat with Kelly Durbin. I spoke with Kelly late last year about how routine labour interventions can lead to difficulties with breastfeeding. Kelly is a mother of 2, lactation consultant, childbirth educator, author and volunteer breastfeeding counsellor and this week we will be talking about how breastfeeding can enhance or protect a mother’s health after giving birth.

You’ll hear Kelly talk about why breastfeeding is so important and beneficial in helping heal the uterus after birth and decrease the likelihood of postpartum haemorrhages. How breastfeeding can reduce the risks of being diagnosed with diabetes later in life and how breastfeeding can lower the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and endometrial cancer.

And so, so, so much more.

Hi Kelly, and welcome back to First Time Mum’s Chat. I really enjoyed talking with you recently about how routine labour interventions can lead to difficulties with breastfeeding. I’m really looking forward to hearing more of your pearls of wisdom today about breastfeeding and how it can enhance or protect a mother’s health after giving birth.

So can you please start by telling us about yourself and your background?

Kelly Durbin: Yeah. My name is Kelly Durbin. I’m an international board certified lactation consultant. I am also a childbirth educator and I am very passionate about teaching people about lactation and childbirth. I became a childbirth educator years ago after my first daughter was born. I also at that time started to provide volunteer breastfeeding support to people who were in need and I felt very passionately about having the ability to reach people in the early days of breastfeeding or, during my teaching of childbirth education, in the days before the birth happens because there’s so much information about the birth process and breastfeeding. It pays off to do a lot of education and learning before your birth.

So today, what we’re going to talk about in terms of maternal health, this is information that anyone could learn during the pregnancy or after the birth. It’s valuable information for anybody to at any time to learn about.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, so as a lactation consultant, you’ve got a lot of experience in breastfeeding. So how can breastfeeding enhance or protect the mother’s health in the short term, immediately after the birth of the baby.

Kelly Durbin: That’s a great question. So immediately after the birth, the placenta is delivered after the baby is delivered and that leaves a pretty large wound inside the uterine wall and because the uterus can and does often bleed after birth, it’s imperative that the uterus begins to shrink and clamp down on the blood vessels in the space where the placenta detached from the uterine wall.

The way that Mother Nature facilitates this is by breastfeeding, because when the baby is latched right after birth, breastfeeding causes uterine contractions and the entire purpose of this is to send the message to the uterus to shrink the uterus down and that allows those blood vessels to clamp down and to shrink so that blood isn’t flowing very excessively, or it’s not freely flowing from the site where the placenta was attached.

So, in that way, breastfeeding immediately after birth, and by that, I mean, within the first 60 to 90 minutes, that helps the uterine wall to shrink. The uterus will eventually go back to its regular pre-pregnancy size, and those blood vessels become smaller and smaller so that they cannot bleed freely, which leads to a dramatic decrease in the risk of postpartum hemorrhage and that is a life saving measure for maternal health.

Helen Thompson: So if somebody doesn’t breastfeed or if they bottle feed, does that process still happen or does that take a bit longer?

Kelly Durbin: It does. I’m imagining that it will take longer. I don’t know all the research on the outcomes for people who don’t choose breastfeeding. However, the process does still happen, but breastfeeding facilitates the entire process because breastfeeding causes uterine contractions. It specifically causes that to happen, which is a way that we can influence a decrease in postpartum hemorrhage.

Helen Thompson: Okay, I know that breastfeeding is known to improve maternal health. If somebody had diabetes or whatever, what are some of the impacts that breastfeeding can have?

Kelly Durbin: So breastfeeding does have a quite dramatic effect on maternal health and diabetes included. So, a 2019 study has confirmed that breastfeeding for more than 12 months can reduce the risk of being diagnosed with diabetes later in life by as much as 30% and that is for someone who has not yet or ever been diagnosed with diabetes. There are of course, people who come to pregnancy having already been diagnosed either with type one or type two diabetes and some women encounter diabetes during pregnancy, and this is known as gestational diabetes, and it’s definitely related only to pregnancy.

Gestational diabetes will in fact, go away after the pregnancy is over. However, people who have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes are at a greater risk for being diagnosed with diabetes later in life. Research shows that if you had gestational diabetes, breastfeeding will lower your risk for being diagnosed with diabetes later on.

So that is one way that people can moderate their risk. In fact, people who have been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, who are insulin dependent, 2009 study show that some individuals with type one diabetes who use insulin every day, have been able to lower the amount of insulin that they require specifically because of breastfeeding, which is incredible. So in some way it is giving the maternal health a metabolic upgrade, and that is improving their diabetic condition.

Helen Thompson: Hmm, that’s really fascinating. I’m really intrigued by that.

Kelly Durbin: Yeah, it is fascinating and I think because we know that diabetes, especially type 2, is increasing, this kind of information, how breastfeeding can upgrade maternal health and give such dramatic benefits, should be taught in the pregnancy or during any childbirth class. Generally, I just don’t think this information is getting to people.

Helen Thompson: No, I’ve never heard that breastfeeding can actually help reduce the insulin dependent. As I said before, I’m amazed by that. I’m wondering whether when they do stop breastfeeding, if they’re still dependent on insulin or whether it cures them completely. I wouldn’t have thought that was the case. I don’t know. I’m only speculating.

Kelly Durbin: The study shows that during breastfeeding, while they’re actually breastfeeding, I don’t think that this is in regard to the period after weaning, they can lower their need for insulin. I don’t believe that the study mentioned any period beyond the weaning. I’m not sure if the benefits continue. However, it’s entirely possible, I just don’t know the answer to that.

Helen Thompson: So, what are some other positive health outcomes that women experience after breastfeeding?

Kelly Durbin: We all know that breastfeeding, even for the first few days or weeks has impacts definitely for maternal health, as we discussed about postpartum hemorrhage and for infant health. Long term benefits are also impacted by breastfeeding for maternal health that is. Women can lower their risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer and endometrial cancer, depending on how long breastfeeding lasts and generally the studies will show that the breastfeeding protection, the protection that’s offered to maternal health by the act of breastfeeding is most effective when breastfeeding happens over a long period of months or even a year or years.

Certainly some studies show that even 4 months of breastfeeding has positive health outcomes. For example, I read a study recently that showed that there’s a 20 percent lower risk of cardiovascular disease if a woman breastfeeds for at least 4 months. So you can influence all the factors that are cofactors with cardiovascular disease and that is an incredible benefit.

In fact, it seems like a health upgrade, right? So, like I mentioned, those 3 female cancers are also highly influenced. The risk of endometrial cancer can be reduced by up to 11 percent and ovarian cancer can be reduced by up to 24 percent with long term breastfeeding.

Helen Thompson: What was the first you mentioned? What is that cancer?

Kelly Durbin: Endometrial cancer. The cancer of the endometrial lining of the uterus.

Helen Thompson: Oh, okay, I didn’t know what that cancer was. Also you mentioned, cause I come from a baby massage perspective, so I always think of the bonding and the connection as well. So if they’re bonding with their baby, even after 4 months, some mothers, which I think is great, actually breastfeed until the child is two, two and a half and I think that’s a great bonding experience because they’re getting all the nutrients from their mother, they’re getting the Colostrum from an early age and they’re getting that skin to skin connection, which is all so important and that helps with mental health as well, it can help with postnatal depression, would you agree with that?

Kelly Durbin: I do agree and in fact, it may be worth mentioning that the World Health Organization and most health departments and government health agencies recommend breastfeeding up to 2 years or even beyond if it’s agreeable for the child and for the mother. Many people have intentions and they set out to breastfeed for a year or maybe even longer. A lot of people just kind of leave it open ended, but they find along the way that too many things are interfering with breastfeeding and this is why I think many times when people read the information that you and I just discussed, for instance, all of these health benefits for maternal health, people think to themselves, oh, this is really fantastic, I want to be able to do this, but a lot of times what I find, especially in lactation counseling is that folks just can’t make it work for various reasons. Either going back to work or some condition came up with the infant or some kind of breastfeeding problem derailed their intention to breastfeed.

There are literally tons and tons of problems that come up and interfere with breastfeeding and that was really what sparked me to write the book about lactation and how to overcome those kinds of problems. In terms of what the recommendations are, I know that the World Health Organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics and very likely, government agencies and even the Australian Breastfeeding Association, likely recommend the longer term breastfeeding if people can do it. So, 2 years is the World Health Organization’s recommendation.

Helen Thompson: And I just want to put out there to moms that if they can’t breastfeed, there’s nothing wrong with not being able to breastfeed. I know there are a lot of moms out there who really want to breastfeed or choose not to breastfeed and it’s their decision.

Kelly Durbin: Absolutely and I have learned over the years that people have incredibly diverse reasons for either intending to and not being able to, or not intending to from the start and having to choose formula or making that choice for themselves. As a breastfeeding supporter and lactation consultant, I try never to assume that someone is making a poor choice because frankly, It may be the best choice for their health, for their mental health or for some condition that isn’t obvious to me as an onlooker.

So I never want to judge folks who opt not to or can’t breastfeed but I do say that I have learned over the years, truly that more people want to do it and are prevented from breastfeeding because of the various circumstances that interfere, things that come up in their life and they get derailed.

I feel that we need more systems worldwide, not just here in the states. We need more systems that support people in reaching their own breastfeeding goals, because what we find is people set goals and sometimes, it’s not everybody, but sometimes they can’t reach the goals because of all of the sabotage things that come in the way. So, it is definitely not something that is always easy. I will say that.

Helen Thompson: Yeah, I remember my mother breastfed my older sister but she couldn’t do it for very long. I have no recollection of why. I think in those days they didn’t have the support that we have now. So when I came along and my younger sister came along, mom just decided, right, that’s it I’m not going to breastfeed.

Kelly Durbin: Right and what’s odd Helen is that your story is exactly the same as mine. My older sister was breastfed for 6 weeks and my mother decided, I think she got a cold and it was difficult because my sister had a stuffed up nose and she couldn’t breathe while she was at the breast, my mom switched to formula at the time.

Then her next 2 children, one of which was me, she felt more comfortable using formula. That was where she knew how to operate and there was no breastfeeding support. It just didn’t appear, so people didn’t have all the information and still many people are operating on lack of information. So I do make it part of my mission to help teach people about this.

Helen Thompson: So , you mentioned your book earlier. Does your book cover everything that we’ve covered here? Is there anything that it covers that we haven’t mentioned that you can discuss briefly?

Kelly Durbin: Sure, the book is divided into two distinct parts. Part one is about all the things that you can do to support breastfeeding. So, supportive measures that you can take during your pregnancy to plan a low intervention birth and things that you can do after the birth that are positive and that enhance breastfeeding. Part 2 is about all the things that can come in the way, that can sabotage breastfeeding or cause you to be derailed from your breastfeeding goals.

In that section, I think I counted 76 items that I listed and discussed in terms of things that can sabotage breastfeeding and in many cases, I give information on how to avoid it, or if you can’t avoid it, how to deal with it or mitigate the long term problems that that particular obstacle is bringing for you.

So, in that way I’m trying to help put a spotlight on the real difficulty. We often have these breastfeeding report cards. Our government here in the U. S. releases the breastfeeding report card and they tell you in every state in the U. S how are we doing? Some states have okay rates and some states do not have good breastfeeding rates and people wonder why. Why is breastfeeding so difficult?

After being a volunteer breastfeeding supporter for 16 years, I can tell you that it’s not related to individuals, it’s related to this collective force of things that people encounter in their daily lives, people encounter during their birth experience. They may encounter interference from working, like, going back to work or not having time to pump during the work day and all of these things, even some of them might seem minor when you add them all up.

This can cause sabotage for breastfeeding and real interference and many people find that they don’t quite reach their goal because of this and that is what really caused me to think, I have to help people in some way and I really began creating this list, thinking that I would teach this information in a class. After the list grew to be 50, 60 items long, I thought, this isn’t something I’m going to be teaching face to face. So I eventually realized my best option was to write it all down in a book. So that was how the book was able to take place.

Helen Thompson: I know in Australia that people encourage breastfeeding and if somebody sees a mother breastfeeding in the street or breastfeeding in the park, it’s a natural process but in some cases, I think there are people out there that look at the mother and say, Oh, you shouldn’t be doing that here, you should be doing that privately in your own home, you shouldn’t be doing it in the park, it’s not okay to do it publicly.

Is that the same kind of thing in the States?

Kelly Durbin: It really probably depends on where you live but generally every year I read stories, I hear from people in my work as a volunteer, that people are constantly being harassed for breastfeeding. In fact, breastfeeding is legal in any public place where the mother is legally allowed to be. So, if she’s allowed in a restaurant, breastfeeding can take place in a restaurant. However, people get harassed all the time. It happens all the time.


Helen Thompson: Yeah I don’t think it should be that way because it’s a natural process. It’s natural for a mother to breastfeed a baby and I think you can do it discreetly or you don’t do it discreetly, it’s entirely up to the mother how she does it. I don’t think she should be harassed for that. I think it’s her choice and if they feel they want to do it in a restaurant, if they’re taking their baby with them, what’s wrong with it? I’m in agreement with you there.

Kelly Durbin: Absolutely.

Helen Thompson: Well, I love what you’ve said about your book. Thank you for sharing all your information about breastfeeding, because it’s a topic that I’ve spoken about before, but not in so much depth with the pros and cons of it. So, if somebody wanted to find out about your book, how can they find out about it?

Kelly Durbin: Yes, my web page is protectingyourpotential. com. You can find me there and you can also find me on LinkedIn and Instagram.

Helen Thompson: Thank you, Kelly, for being here, and thank you for your time, and it’s been great talking with you.

Kelly Durbin: It has been wonderful talking with you, Helen. Thank you so much for being able to open your podcast to a topic like this. It is very important and I appreciate you having me on today. Thank you so much.

Helen Thompson: I really enjoyed talking with Kelly a second time on the podcast about breastfeeding. If you haven’t done so already, I strongly suggest listening to our earlier episode and do check out her book that she mentioned during our chat. With over 70 items listed and discussed about what can sabotage breastfeeding, I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s highly beneficial and informative.

I’ve included a link to where you can get it on Amazon, as well as Kelly’s website and social media in the show notes, which can be found at

I’ve also included a link to the earlier episode with Kelly, which will assist you further in your breastfeeding journey. I share each episode on First Time Mum’s Chat Instagram page. Please support me by following me.