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Thinking about breastfeeding?

18 Jun, 2019

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 https://www.human-milk.com/science.html

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  https://www2.hse.ie/my-child/

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) –  alcireland.ie

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 https://www2.hse.ie/my-child/ whenever you need one.



Parent Hub Donegal

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