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


Baby’s sleep needs 0 – 3 months

The website is a great source of information about all aspects of your child’s well being and development. Here is what they say about sleep in those early months.

Newborn baby’s sleep needs at 0 to 3 months

Newborn babies spend most of their time asleep. They haven’t yet developed a set sleep pattern.

Your newborn baby will wake up regularly to be fed. It doesn’t matter if it’s day time or night time.

This can be very hard to cope with. It will get easier. Try to sleep when your baby is asleep.

From birth, some babies need more or less sleep than other babies.

Newborn babies are too young to follow strict routines. You can start to introduce changes to bedtime at around 3 months of age. For example, changing into pyjamas, bath time, stories or singing time.

It often takes several months for a baby’s day to night pattern of waking and sleeping to become settled.

How much sleep a newborn baby needs

Your baby will need about 9 to 18 hours of sleep until they are 3 months old. The average they will sleep is about 14.5 hours.

Your baby is unique and may sleep differently to other babies. Some babies sleep for long periods, others for short bursts. They will sleep during the day and night. They might sleep for anything between a few minutes to a few hours at a time.

Newborn babies don’t know the difference between day and night. Their sleep is more likely controlled by their tummies.

Waking up for feeds

Newborn babies will wake up to be fed. Your baby will sleep for 1 to 3 hours until their next feed. Their sleep time gets longer as they get older. Their tummy influences their body clock.

If their tummy is full, they will sleep. If they are hungry, they will wake.

If you are worried that your baby is not getting the right amount of sleep, talk to your GP or public health nurse

Putting your baby to sleep

Your baby may go straight to sleep after a feed.

When possible, put your baby down to sleep drowsy but awake. This might help them fall asleep where they will be waking up.

Your baby will be awake for 1 to 2 hours between sleeps.

Signs your newborn baby is tired

A newborn baby will probably be tired if they have been awake for 1 to 1.5 hours.

There are signs that will tell you when they’re ready to sleep. Avoid stimulating your baby, such as talking loudly or playing with them.

Some of the signs are:

  • staring into space
  • fussing or grizzling
  • crying
  • frowning
  • arching back
  • can’t be distracted
  • jerky arm or legs movements

Keeping your baby awake

Keeping your baby awake during the day will not help them sleep better at night.

If your baby is overtired it is much harder for them to get to sleep.

Where your baby should sleep

Cot death or sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is the sudden and unexpected death of a baby who seems healthy during sleep.

It can happen in a cot, pram, bed, car seat, baby seat or anywhere a baby is sleeping.

The safest place for your baby to sleep is in a cot in the same room as you.

Background noises

Background noises such as music or children playing may not wake them but a sudden loud noise might.

Your baby’s sleeping position

Always put your baby to sleep on their back with their feet touching the end of the cot.

Do not let your baby sleep while lying on their tummy. Babies who sleep on their tummies have a higher risk of cot death. You can give your baby some tummy time’ when they are awake.

If your baby always lies with their head in the same position they might develop a ‘flat head’. This is called plagiocephaly.

You can help prevent this when putting your baby down to sleep on their back. When they are lying flat, you can alternate their head position so that sometimes they face left and sometimes they face right.

Related topic

Safe sleep practices for your newborn

Coping with disturbed newborn sleep

Your baby’s sleep pattern is probably not going to fit in with your sleep pattern. Try to sleep when your baby sleeps.

Some things that may help:

  • if you have a partner, ask for help
  • ask family and friends for help with chores so you can take a nap

Breastfeeding and caffeine

If you are breastfeeding, caffeine may affect your baby’s sleep. The recommended limit for breastfeeding mothers is 6 cups of tea or 2 cups of coffee a day. For filtered coffee, you should only have one cup a day.

For lots more information on all aspects of your child’s health, well being and development see

If you need some support on sleep issues with your child please contact your Public Health Nurse who has been specially trained. You can find contact details for your PHN on the Parent Hub Donegal Services page by clicking this link      Put in the region of Donegal you are in ( will help you) and click update.

Breastfeeding – the early days

Breastfeeding is normal. It’s normal like walking, rather than like breathing. Don’t get anxious if it takes you and your baby a few days to figure this breastfeeding out and make it work for you.

In the last weeks of pregnancy your breasts already be making colostrum – the concentrated first milk. Once your baby is born putting him skin to skin against your breast makes the most of his natural instinct to breastfeed. Ideally this is in the first hour after birth, but it can be any time in the first days and as often as you like.

Babies have tiny tummies so they need to take small amounts in frequent feeds. Colostrum is concentrated and rich in antibodies. It helps clear the meconium poo and gives your baby’s immune system a boost. Small quantities fit nicely in small tummies. After a few days your baby’s tummy capacity will have increased and so will the amount of milk available in your breasts. In the first few days your baby will need to feed anything from 10 to 12 times in 24 hours. Don’t worry this is perfectly normal. It is common for babies to lose some weight in the first days but they should be back to their birth weight by about two weeks old.

Helping your baby get a good latch on the breast is important. Sit as comfortably as possible, with pillows for support if you like. Hold your baby level with your breast with his tummy turned towards you and cuddled in close. Have him nose to nipple to encourage him to open his mouth wide and get a deep comfortable latch. Don’t be afraid to ask the midwives for help with these first feeds.

Many mothers find that going to a support group can be helpful. Breastfeeding rates have been low in Ireland for decades and some new mothers don’t have family and friends who have breastfed. Building a network of people who will support your choices and provide help and information will make it easier to navigate the early months of motherhood. If you can get along to a group before your baby is born it gives an opportunity to ask any questions you might have, and perhaps see some babies breastfeeding for the first time.

Here is a link to the breastfeeding support groups in County Donegal

And you can read more about breastfeeding and even get in touch with an expert on the HSE website

Plus here is a link to a PDF of the book Breastfeeding – a good start in life