Breastfeeding benefits for mother and baby

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BREASTFEEDING: The World Health Organisation recommends breastfeeding as the healthiest and most natural way of feeding your baby. WHO recommends that mothers breastfeed their babies exclusively for the first six months and continue as they introduce weaning foods.

Breastfeeding is the act of feeding your baby with milk directly from your breast. You can breastfeed your baby by nursing them on a regular basis and/or by pumping your milk and storing it for your baby’s use. If you intend to breastfeed, you should start within a few hours of giving birth, as this is when your baby’s instinct to suckle is greatest and thus you can get off to a good start.


Benefits for the baby

  • Breast milk contains antibodies, which help the baby’s immune system to form properly.
  • Babies are almost never allergic to their mother’s breast milk, whereas many babies develop allergies to cow’s milk.
  • Breast milk contains the correct levels of sodium, vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and enzymes. Formula does not contain all of these; it simply has not yet replicated the components of breast milk.
  • Breast fed babies tend to develop less gastrointestinal, ear, urinary tract, eye and respiratory infections during their first year of life. This is because breast milk enhances their delicate immune system.
  • Breast fed babies are more likely to have better health as adults – they are less likely to have heart disease, high blood pressure or to become obese or develop diabetes.
  • Breast fed babies are less likely to develop meningitis and septicaemia.
  • Breast fed babies are less likely to develop food allergies.
  • Breast fed babies are more likely to have higher IQs than bottlefed babies.

HSE breastfeedingBenefits for the mother

  • Breastfeeding allows you to bond well with your baby.
  • Breastfeeding decreases your risk of breast and ovarian cancer.
  • Breastfeeding burns a significant amount of calories per day, so you may find it easier to get back to your pre pregnancy weight.
  • Breastfeeding saves you a lot of money, as you won’t need to buy formula or sterilising equipment.
  • Breastfeeding saves you time because you do not have to prepare bottles.
  • Breastfeeding is very convenient; since it doesn’t involve sterilising bottles or measuring formula.
  • Women who breastfeed are less likely to develop osteoporosis.

Choosing not to breastfeed

It is not the right choice for everyone, however. Women with inverted nipples may not be able to breastfeed and some women may not be able to produce enough milk, due to physical or hormonal problems. However, this is rare and most women can breastfeed if they are given advice and support. Fathers and other family cannot help with breastfeeding, which some women find off-putting. Also, breastfed babies require feeding more often and this can be a source of stress.

It is important to note that women who work outside the home can also breastfeed, as working woman are legally entitled to maternity leave and can express their milk when they return to work.

Read more about breastfeeding Get advice from Lisa our breastfeeding expert
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One Response to “Breastfeeding benefits for mother and baby”

  1. Profile photo of v_vicky v_vicky

    Hi everyone!
    Just a bit from personal experience about breastfeeding. I have 2 children (Daughter-10 and Son-3) and I have breastfed them both. But.. When my breast started to grow I was diagnosed with inverted nipples and my gp told my mum that I will not be able to breastfeed my children. Oh, she was wrong!
    It took some time after my first was born expressing milk and trying to get her to grab that nipple. After nearly 2 unsuccessful months I was ready to give up. My hubby was goggling for some answer on how to help me and he found one! Nipple protectors! As they help to protect nipples they also did a great job of becoming my nipple! I just needed to learn how to hold them properly so that milk wouldn’t leak! :) I didn’t need to express my milk anymore I could feed my child from breast and I did that for 18 months.
    When my son was born he was diagnosed with complex heart condition. He had few open heart operations. I knew I had to breastfeed him no matter what! This time we had nipple protectors on hand, but I had to express milk anyway because he was attached to tubes and wires, but we didn’t give up. He recovered faster then doctors expected and have been in good shape in-between hospital stays and procedures. Cardiac team recons its because of getting all the good things from my milk. I did also breastfeed him for 18 months.
    With all that I just wanna to tell every mum out there – if you are doubting about whether to breastfeed your child or not – don’t. Our milk is the best start we can give to our little miracles and if you have a chance to feed your baby yourself it is worth trying a bit more than you feel is enough!
    Good luck and all the best!

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