The importance – and the benefits – of breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is important for you and your baby. Your breast milk protects your baby against lots of illnesses and conditions. It’s designed to meet your baby’s every need.

This article comes from the website where you can find lots more information about breastfeeding as well as information on all aspects of your child’s health, well being and development.  You can also chat online with a breastfeeding expert and find out about breastfeeding support groups in your area.

Why breastfeeding is good for your baby

Your breast milk contains essential enzymes, hormones and antibodies. These are vital for your baby’s normal growth, development and good health. Breast milk is tailored for your baby and their stage of development. It changes as your baby grows to meet their needs and protects them from illness.

When you come into contact with a virus or bacteria, your body will make antibodies to protect itself. These antibodies are passed into your breast milk so your baby is protected too. Despite years of research, science still can’t replicate this.

Breast milk is good because it:

  • helps to protect your baby from illnesses such as chest, ear and tummy infections
  • reduces your baby’s risk of constipation or an upset tummy
  • reduces the risk of obesity for your baby when they are older

Obesity prevention

Breastfeeding has an important influence on reducing and preventing obesity.

This is because:

  • breast milk contains hormones that programs your baby’s regulation of food intake
  • breastfed babies control the amount of milk they consume and finish feeding when they’re satisfied. This helps them to control appetite from a very early stage
  • both amniotic fluid and breast milk can introduce tiny amounts of flavour. This can influence taste preferences and food choices after weaning onto solids

Breastfeeding is a good start in setting up appetite controls in the baby. But many other factors (such as lifestyle and nutrition) influence your baby as they grow up too.


Why breastfeeding is good for mothers

Breastfeeding is important for mothers too.


  • helps your uterus (womb) return to normal size more quickly
  • helps you bond with your baby
  • reduces your risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer and diabetes
  • saves you time and money
  • is convenient, no need to carry bottles and formula with you when out and about
  • is ready when baby needs it at the perfect temperature with no need to sterilise
  • burns calories and may help you regain your pre-pregnancy weight

Getting help

While breastfeeding is the most natural way to feed your baby, it’s a skill that you and your baby learn together. With the right help and support, you can start breastfeeding and continue for as long as you want to.

Talk to your nurse, midwife or GP about breastfeeding during your antenatal care.

Join a breastfeeding support group.

For information on a whole host of breastfeeding topics and questions just click the link

Related topic


Breastmilk is amazing!


The Science of Human Milk is pretty fantastic. There are hundreds of substances in Human Milk that feed our babies while helping them be healthy and grow optimally. In this article, to stimulate your interest, I am going to write about 4 wonderful components and then give you a link for you to find out more about them and other marvellous ingredients in Human Milk.

In each millilitre of milk there are up to a million cells, all the cells that are in our blood are in milk with the exception of Red Blood cells, and this is why human milk is commonly referred to as ‘White Blood’. In 2007 Australian scientists discovered that human milk contained Stem Cells, cells that when stimulated can change to become any tissue in the body such as bone, fat, liver and brain cells as well as many more, and which are used to help kids recover from chemotherapy treatment for Leukaemia. Scientists have found out, by studying animal studies, that after the baby animals drink their mother’s milk that contains stem cells too, these stem cells from the mothers can be later found in the baby animals’ brains! This is really brilliant as it helps us understand that the stem cells in our milk are probably going into our babies’ bodies and repairing and replacing any problems that occurred while they were being made in our wombs. Isn’t this so beautiful!

In each millilitre there are also up to a million microbes – bacteria, fungi and viruses – which are all friendly and needed to make the microbiome which helps us function properly. This Microbiome was only recently discovered as an Organ and it weights around 1 kilo in an adult. When our gut microbiome is healthy so is our brain and our well-being.  Interestingly our Human Milk not only contains perfect food for our babies but it also contains perfect food for all the microbes! Our milk contains over 200 different types of sugars, called ‘Human Milk Oligosaccharides’ or HMOs, most of which babies can’t absorb as food, but the microbes can! So not only does human milk feed the baby it also feeds the really important microbes to make our microbiomes. Recent research has also shown that these sugars help protect our babies from infections and diarrhoea and even constipation! So, sugars are good for babies when in human milk but not when part of sweets!!!

The next cool thing in milk is HAMLET which stands for this Human Alpha-lactoalbumin Made lethal to Tumor cells. This substance which is activated in the baby’s tummy can kill abnormal and cancer cells. Discovered in 1990’s, it is currently being tested for use as a medicine to fight cancer! And we can feed it to our babies. Super. So, like the stem cells, scientists think HAMLET can find any abnormal cell, attach to them and make them die, thus reducing the risk of our babies getting cancer. This fits with studies that find that babies who breastfeed suffer less from leukaemia and other childhood cancers.

The last thing going to talk about is Oxytocin which is contained in our milk. This is often called the ‘feel good hormone’ and is the hormone that we produce when we fall in Love. Babies both drink the oxytocin and produce it themselves on feeding, allowing them to feel love through the milk and makes them feel safe and protected. It is really important for babies to feel safe. When they feel this way, they grow up to become confidence and happy adults. When a mother breastfeeds, she also gets a rush of oxytocin into her own body and is filled with a feeling of contentedness and love for her baby. This helps mums bond with their babies. When we examine the science of oxytocin, we see that it helps to reduce stress in our bodies by lowering Cortisol, the stress hormone, which if elevated all the time can be very toxic and damaging to both the baby and the mother. It also increases production of opioids in the baby, which are pain relieving substances like morphine! So if our baby gets hurt or is getting vaccinated breastfeeding is a great way to help them manage their pain.

So, if you are interested in more and have a computer, link into this cool infographic all about these and other cool components of human milk:

Thank you for reading. Please feel free to contact me if you are interested in learning more or having me talk to a group you feel would like to learn more about the Marvels of Human Milk.

Thinking about breastfeeding?

As a parent you will make so many decisions that will impact on you and your child’s life – many of which may seem overwhelming but gathering as much information as possible will enable you to make informed choices.


One of the very first decisions you will make in relation to your baby’s wellbeing is how to feed your baby.

Have you considered breastfeeding?

Breastfeeding is the biological norm which in other words just means that it is the way nature intended us to feed. When you think about it, breastfeeding has ensured babies’ survival since the beginning of time and without it we wouldn’t be where we are today.

Often referred to as liquid gold it contains the most amazing properties that not only help your baby grow but also help fight all types of infection from birth into toddlerhood. Every single drop is so beneficial whether you decide to feed for a week, a month, a year or longer – breastfeeding has huge benefits for both you and your baby.

The benefits of Breastfeeding are readily recognised by the World Health Organisation who recommends the following …

Here are some of the Amazing Features of Breastmilk

Breastmilk is designed specifically for your baby and offers everything your baby needs. It differs in so many ways from the milk produced by other species, including cow’s milk from which formula is usually derived. Formula is a viable alternative but it is important to know that powdered formula is not sterile and needs to be reconstituted (made up) safely with water that is hot enough {70 degrees Celsius) to kill any bacteria. It does not match human milk and does not offer any protection from illnesses.

Human breastmilk contains a staggering 300 ingredients while formula contains approximately 70.

Click on this link if you want to see exactly what Breastmilk contains

A mother’s milk is also unique in that it changes in response to her baby’s needs … for example if a baby is born prematurely a mother’s milk will be tailored to suit the needs of a premature baby. It is a living fluid – it contains not only all the essential nutrients to support your baby’s growth but also immunoglobulins which boost immunity, antibodies which fight infection, and precious stem cells. When a mother is exposed to viruses and bacteria her body will respond by making antibodies specific to those germs which will offer protection to her baby. Even when a baby starts solids after 6 months of age, the number of antibodies in human milk becomes even more concentrated providing invaluable protection against infections and diseases … proving that your milk is once again changing in response to your baby.


The Benefits of Breastfeeding for both you and your baby

Every single drop of Breastmilk contains not only essential nutrients but important properties that will protect your baby from illness. The longer a mother breastfeeds, the longer protection lasts and the greater the benefits


Health benefits for your baby

Reduces the risk of respiratory tract infections: A third of all respiratory infections could be avoided by breastfeeding (Victora et al, 2016). Exclusive breastfeeding for more than 4 months reduces the risk of hospitalization for these infections by up to 72% (AHRQ,2007).

Reduces the risk of middle ear infections: Breastfeeding provides important protection against otitis media in children younger than 2 years of age (Victora et al, 2016). 3 or more months of exclusive breastfeeding may reduce the risk by 50%, while any breastfeeding may reduce it by 23%.

  • Colds and infections:Babies exclusively breastfed for 6 months have a significantly lower risk of getting serious colds and ear or throat infections (Duijts et al, 2010).
  • Gut infections: Any breastfeeding is linked with a 64% reduction in gut infections, seen for up to 2 months after breastfeeding stops (AHRQ,2007).
  • Intestinal tissue damage:Feeding preterm babies breast milk is linked to a significant reduction in the incidence of the potentially very serious bowel condition known as necrotizing enterocolitis (Herrmann & Carroll, 2014).
  • Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS): Breastfeeding is linked to a 36% reduced risk (Victora et al, 2016).
  • Allergic diseases: Exclusive breastfeeding is associated with a reduced risk of asthma, atopic dermatitis and eczema (Ip et al, 2007)
  • Celiac disease:Analysis of research indicates that babies who are breastfed at the time of first introduction of gluten  have a 52% lower risk of developing celiac disease (Akobeng et al, 2007)
  • Inflammatory bowel disease: Babies who are breastfed are less likely to develop childhood inflammatory bowel disease (Xu et al, 2017).
  • Diabetes: Breastfeeding is associated with a 35% reduction in risk of Type 2 Diabetes and a possible protective effect against Type 1 Diabetes (Victora et al, 2016)
  • Childhood leukemia: Breastfeeding for 6 months or longer is linked with a 15–20% reduction in the risk of childhood leukemia (AHRQ,2007).
  • Childhood obesity: Irish research has shown that infants breastfed for 6 months or more are 51% less likely to be obese. (McCrory & Layte 2012). Duration of breastfeeding is a key factor in preventing obesity, each month of breastfeeding is associated with a 4% reduction in risk.

Health benefits of Breastfeeding for you

  • Helps your womb contract after childbirth.
  • Helps prevent postpartum haemorrhage
  • Delays menstruation – allows a women’s body to rest after pregnancy by often suppressing ovulation.
  • Exclusive breastfeeding can be a natural contraceptive as it can help provide natural birth spacing
  • Breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast cancer. Studies have found a significant inverse association between duration of lactation and breast cancer risk …Each year of breastfeeding is associated with a decrease in breast cancer risk.
  • Breastfeeding also reduces the risk of ovarian canceruterine cancer, and endometrial cancer.
  • Breastfeeding protects against osteoporosis.
  • Decreases the risk of rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Decreases insulin requirementsin diabetic mothers.
  • Lowers risk of Type 2 diabetes mellitusin mothers who have a history of gestational diabetes.
  • Release of oxytocin promotes emotional wellbeing
  • Can reduce the incidence of postnatal depression.
  • Natural sleep aid as your body releases a hormone that helps you to go back to sleep quicker.
  • Breastfeeding mothers actually get more sleep.
  • Breastfeeding mums may lose weight easier as you burn up an additional 500 calories approximately per day feeding your baby.
  • Nicer nappy changes
  • Breastfeeding is more than providing complete nutrition for your baby. It is also an incredible parenting tool … it provides valuable comfort to a tired or unwell baby or child.

Where do I start?

If you are planning to breastfeed, you will be delighted to hear that your body will naturally begin to prepare by the 16th week of pregnancy. You may have noticed your breasts becoming a little fuller as your body prepares to make the hugely beneficial colostrum before your baby’s arrival.

Understanding how breastfeeding works and how amazing our bodies are is really important. Breastfeeding is a very natural process but for both mother and baby it is a new skill – and certainly knowing what to expect is very helpful. Knowing what’s normal is a great start therefore antenatal education can give you a heads up. Babies are wonderful at telling us their needs so reading their cues and responding to them can pave the way to breastfeeding success. For example, in the very early stages babies will initially feed very frequently … ‘little and often’ … ‘little’ suits their tummy size and ‘often’ stimulates your milk supply which often happily leads to an abundant milk supply and a very content baby who will gradually stretch out their feed times. However, a lack of information often leads to self-doubt where mothers question if their baby is getting enough. Not being able to see a specific volume often leads to wondering how much your baby is getting but it’s important to know that a well, term baby will self-regulate and tell you exactly what they need … and indeed there will be times when your baby will want to feed a little more because they are having a growth spurt or a developmental leap.

Just as you prepare for your baby’s birth it can be hugely beneficial to learn a little more about breastfeeding in advance as this will ensure you feel confidence –

Confidence in your body’s ability is key, but it is important to remember that breastfeeding is a new skill not just for you but also your baby. As with all new skills it is vital to have the appropriate information, guidance and support to succeed so ask for as much as support as needed to start you on your journey.

Here are some good sources of information

HSE website

This information booklet ‘Breastfeeding – A Good Start In Life’ is given in hospital usually however you may find it useful to read prior to your baby’s arrival. Just click the link:-

It contains a useful graphic in terms of what to expect i.e. frequency of feeds, wet & dirty nappies etc which will help you determine what is normal for your baby in the very early days.

Things you can do antenatally
  • Ask friends & family members questions about their experiences
  • Attend a group with other breastfeeding mothers as they will be more than happy to share their experiences (La Leche League & Cuidiú meetings are held regularly locally)
  • Discuss your intentions with your midwife antenatally
  • Attend breastfeeding specific antenatal classes
  • Build a support network – explain to family and friends that you intend to breastfeed … let them know that there are a lot of wonderful practical ways they can provide support which will really help you … be it shopping, cooking, tidying – all the practical things that any new parent would appreciate help with.
Things you can do once your baby is born
    • Initiate breastfeeding as soon as possible after birth
    • You baby will want to be close to you. If for some reason it’s not possible for you to do immediate skin to skin then partners can step into the breech. When its possible do lots of skin to skin … you will not spoil your baby just ensure they feel secure.
    • Feed frequently in the early days as this will encourage your supply
    • Get as much assistance as required to ensure your baby has a good deep latch
    • Rest when your baby rests
    • Involve Partners in breastfeeding! Partners and other family members can provide the most amazing support which can make all the difference. Some parents may feel that perhaps the other parent is missing out if not able to feed but there are just so many ways to bond with a baby. Partners can still experience that ‘really special bond’ by doing skin to skin which babies love as well as cuddling, interacting, playing, changing, bathing and even winding (especially at 4am when any parent would appreciate an extra few minutes shuteye!) … the list goes on and on … any time when baby is awake is time when bonding can take place.
Know where to get support locally
  • Breastfeeding drop in clinic, LUH
  • La Leche League
  • Cuidiú
  • Public Health Nurse
  • Practice Nurse
  • IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) –

Breastfeeding is a normal physiological process for a woman’s body. However, self-care is so important for any parent. Ensuring you look after your own health is a really good start…

  • Keep hydrated.
  • Eat a balanced diet.
  •  Get regular exercise
  • Get enough sleep – rest when your baby rests
  • Enlist support from family members/friends and let them help!
  • Put up a list of helpful chores family/friends can undertake when they visit
  • Accept offers of home cooking
  • Make time to socialise…
  • Meet others mothers … baby massage classes, toddler groups, parenting groups
  • Join local support groups – Cuidiú & La Leche League
  • Parenting is wonderfully rewarding but it’s also ok to admit if you’re finding it tough or lonely …  seek support, seek out other parents who will also want to share their experiences.

You can also contact a breastfeeding expert on whenever you need one.



National Breastfeeding Week events in Donegal on Thursday 4th October

1. Coffee morning


PHN Service Thursday October 4th 11.00am – 1.00pm Resource Centre, St. Johnston Teresa Daly

Screening of MILK


La Leche /DMA


Thursday 4th




Donegal Medical Academy, LUH


Jan Cromie

Sarah Brennan

3. Launch of Breastfeeding Support Group / Coffee Morning



PHN Service


Thursday 4th


11.00 – 1.00pm


Health Centre,



Caroline McLaughlin

4. Coffee Morning PHN Service Thursday 4th 11.00 – 1.00pm Resource Centre,



Eileen Duggan

National Breastfeeding Week events in Donegal on Wednesday 3rd October

1. Presentation of Medical Students’ research on Breastfeeding and Forum Stand





Wednesday 3rd




Sarah Brennan

2. Coffee Morning


Spraoi & Sport/ PHN Service


Wednesday 3rd 10.00 – 1.00 pm Spraoi & Sport, Carndonagh  


3. TY Information Session LUH Wednesday 3rd 10.30 – 11.30am Conference Room (Main Foyer) LUH


Geraldine Hanley

National Breastfeeding Week events in Donegal on Tuesday 2nd October




Organised by










LUH Coffee Morning




Tuesday 2nd


11.00 – 12.30


Donegal Medical Academy, LUH


Geraldine Hanley

Sarah Brennan

2. 1st Anniversary Celebration Coffee Morning



PHN Service


Tuesday 2nd




Dunfanaghy Resource Centre


Labhaoise Temple

3. Coffee Morning & Talk on Baby Massage


PHN Service Tuesday 2nd 11.00am Conference Room,

Primary Care – Stranorlar




4. Coffee Morning


PHN Service Tuesday 2nd 11.00 – 12.30 Conference room,

Bundoran Health Centre


Sharon McGuinness