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

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Infant Mental Health Awareness Week runs from June 13th-19th.           

This week provides an opportunity to focus attention on the wellbeing, social and emotional development of our babies and young children. It highlights the importance of early relationships and a relationship based approach to interventions with infants and families. As our understanding of IMH and its evidence base develops, so also does our knowledge of how to apply this knowledge and an ‘IMH lens’ to interactions with infants, parents and caregivers in health and social services. 

What is infant mental health?

Infant Mental health (IMH) refers to the healthy social and emotional development of Infants starting at conception up to three years of age.

The first 1000 days of life are recognised as a critical period of opportunity to support infant mental health. Decades of research have shown that it is the quality of the early caregiver relationship that is a significant determinant of the infant’s healthy social and emotional development and in turn physical health, right up to adulthood.

 

The National Healthy Childhood Programme has embedded IMH as the foundation of the development of its resources and in the approach of the delivery of the universal child health service. This embedding of key messages can be seen in the My Child suite of books (www.mychild.ie/books) and also on www.MyChild.ie  where key messages around bonding and relationship building have been embedded for the parent/caregiver.

 

In clinical practice the topic of IMH has been included for the first time in the National Standardised Child Health Record. To build on this, the National Healthy Childhood Programme have just completed a suite of three eLearning units which are now available on HSEland for healthcare practitioners / caregivers who are working with children and families.  

 

Throughout the week you will see videos and key IMH messaging being promoted on the HSE MyChild social media pages ( Facebook / Instagram ). Keep an eye out in the National Newspapers for articles from our experts also. (IrishTimes article)  

 

In addition The National Healthy Childhood Programme have developed a series of ten practical videos with HSE expert advice which are now available on YouTube and on the relevant pages on the www.mychild.ie website.

These videos (2-3 minutes each) are aimed at parents/guardians of children (0 – 3 years).

These new video resources are available here while lots more expert advice for every step of pregnancy, baby and toddler health can also be found at www.mychild.ie

There are a suite of posters available focusing on the promotion of IMH messaging to order from healthy.childhood@hse.ie

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