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 MyChild.ie 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. https://www2.hse.ie/my-child/  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.

Breastfeeding:

  • 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 https://www2.hse.ie/babies-and-toddlers/breastfeeding/

Related topic

Weaning

Little benefit in ‘Hungry Baby’ and ‘Follow-on’ formula milks

If you are a first-time mum you may have some questions about feeding your baby particularly if you have decided to use formula milk. Here is some advice from the MyChild.ie website.

 

Breast milk is the best and most natural food for your baby. Your body makes breast milk that is unique for your baby. The special ingredients are vital for normal growth, development and good health. It protects your baby against many illnesses and conditions. Infant formula cannot reproduce these ingredients.

Formula milk, also known as formula feed, baby formula or infant formula, is made from cow’s milk. Formula milk has been changed to make it suitable for your baby. Extra nutrients such as vitamins and minerals are added to help your baby to grow and develop.

Formula milk comes in powdered form or in ‘ready to feed’ cartons. Formula contains additives like vegetable oils, vitamins and minerals. These make sure that the formula contains the nutrients that babies need.

Do not use soy formula for babies under 6 months unless your GP or paediatrician recommends this. Do not give a baby under the age of 1 regular cow’s milk, sheep’s milk, goat’s milk, condensed milk, or oat, almond and rice milk.

First infant formula

If you choose not to breastfeed or if you are unable to breastfeed your baby, you need to use formula.

First infant formula is the type of formula recommended for newborns. This should always be the formula you use and is suitable until your baby is 1 year old.

You should talk to your public health nurse or GP before you change your baby’s infant formula

There are several different brands of first formula milks available on the market. These are regulated to ensure they have the essential ingredients your baby needs.

Hungry baby milk

Hungry baby formula contains more casein than whey. Casein is a protein that is harder for babies to digest.

It’s often described as suitable for ‘hungrier babies’. There is no evidence that babies settle better or sleep longer when fed this type of formula.

Hungry baby milk is suitable from birth, but ask your public health nurse for advice first.

Follow-on formula

Follow-on formula is sometimes called ‘number 2 milk’. Switching to follow-on formula at 6 months has no benefits for your baby.

From 6 months you should begin weaning to solids and aim for a healthy balanced diet.

Never give ‘follow-on’ formulas to a baby under the age of 6 months

Your baby can carry on having first infant formula as their main drink until they are 1 year old.

The labels on follow-on formula can look like first infant formula. Read them to avoid making a mistake.

Ask your midwife, public health nurse or GP about giving formula milk to your newborn baby. Check with them if you are considering changing your baby’s formula. Avoid changing the type of formula you give your baby.

Related topics

Preparing baby formula

Breastfeeding

For more information on all aspects of your child’s health, well being and development check out  https://www2.hse.ie/my-child/