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.
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.
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
- can help lower your baby’s risk of food allergies
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.
Dr Anne Doolan talks about breast milk
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
Why breastfeeding is good for the environment
Breastfeeding is free and has a low environmental impact.
- minimal or zero waste
- a low carbon footprint
- low use of natural resources such as water
- low pollution caused by packaging and transport
Breastfed babies and children can continue to be fed in emergency situations. For example, in extreme weather events when food and clean water supplies are limited.
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.
If you have further concerns, your midwife will arrange one-to-one consultation with the hospital lactation consultant (IBCLC) before the birth of your baby.
Antenatal breastfeeding preparation classes
You could also go to breastfeeding preparation classes with a lactation consultant.
- give you the opportunity to voice your queries and concerns
- prepare you and your partner for the late stages of pregnancy and recognising how your breasts will change before birth
- prepare you and your partner for the early days of breastfeeding
- give you tips on how to latch and attach your baby
- give you information about local breastfeeding support groups
- give you the opportunity to meet other mums
You can go to these classes at any time from the second trimester onwards. Contact your hospital lactation consultant for more information about local classes.