Breastfeeding has been proven to provide health benefits to both baby and mother, but many don’t realize that the practice is also super effective at burning calories. The average woman burns about 300 to 500 calories a day while breastfeedings, but how can something so stationary be so good at burning fat?

It’s not so much the action of breastfeeding that helps new mothers burn so many calories, but rather the process of making milk. For example, according to, it takes about 20 calories to make just one ounce of milk. So if your baby eats 19 to 30 ounces a day, that's anywhere between 380 to 600 calories burned, Joy Kosak, co-founder of Simple Wishes, a hands-free pumping bra, told Shape. Breastfeeding is so energy-draining that SF Gate suggests mothers compensate for the extra calories used to make breastmilk by increasing their caloric intake by 500 calories bringing their total daily requirement to around 3000 calories.

Breastfeeding doesn’t just help mothers burn calories. A recent study has also suggested that the behavior can have lasting health benefits for the mother and may even protect her from aggressive breast cancer later in life. The research, which is now published online in Breastfeeding Medicine, found that breastfeeding for longer than six months is associated with a better breast cancer survival rate. Arthur I. Eidelman, MD, Editor-in-Chief of the journal, said in a recent statement that the study “confirms that the long-term maternal health benefits of breastfeeding are not only preventative in nature, but that it also has the capacity to reduce the severity of breast cancer.”

In addition, another study found that mothers with gestational diabetes who breastfed immediately after giving birth are also half as likely to develop Type 2 diabetes within two years compared to women with the same condition who exclusively formula fed their babies.

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