Tusla - Ireland's Child & Family Agency

Breastfeeding Information Point


                     Getting breastfeeding off to a good start


The importance 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.

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

Prevents obesity 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 6
  • 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, lactation consultant or GP about breastfeeding during your antenatal care.

Breastfeeding on return to work:

There are lots of ways you can continue to breastfeed when returning to work. This will depend on your baby's age and how often they feed during the day.

To have breastmilk available for your childminder during the day, you could try:

  • Breastfeeding in the mornings and evenings. You can then express milk during the day or in the evening
  • Topping up with formula during the day, while breastfeeding in the morning and evenings (note your supply may reduce with this change in demand)
  • Giving your baby an occasional feed of expressed breast milk from about 6 weeks old. This will allow you to become comfortable with expressing your breast milk. Parents often use a bottle to give expressed breast milk to their baby. Your partner or another family member should help with these feeds if possible. This will help your baby get used to taking breast milk from someone other than yourself. Paced bottle feeding may help a breastfed baby to take a bottle.
  • If you plan to take maternity leave beyond 6 months, this may not be necessary. Try and get your baby used to taking milk from a bottle or a cup before you return to work. An older baby may take expressed milk from a cup or beaker. You can do this from around 6 months.

A month before you return to work

Begin to introduce an occasional feed of expressed breast milk. Use a cup or bottle for these feeds. Practice expressing and preparing expressed breast milk feeds. You may want to freeze expressed breast milk to build up a stock to have on hand if you need it when you return to work.

2 weeks before you return to work

Begin leaving your baby with your childminder for short periods to help them get to know each other. You can give your childminder expressed breast milk for feeds.

When back at work

If you decide to express breast milk during the day, make a plan for how you are going to pump and store the milk. When you go back to work, you may need to express milk during the day. This will relieve breast fullness and help maintain your milk supply.

You can store this milk in a fridge or cooler bag with ice packs. Talk to your line manager about breastfeeding breaks and how they can help you to continue breastfeeding. Please refer to Tusla’s Breastfeeding Policy for details on breastfeeding in the workplace.

Common myths

It’s not that popular in this country

Almost 60% of women in Ireland choose to breastfeed their babies. This number is lower than in other European countries, but still represents over half.

Your baby won’t get enough

Almost all women are able to produce enough breast milk. The size and shape of your breasts or nipples doesn't matter. When your baby is born, you may feel at first that you're not producing a lot of milk. This is because your first milk or 'colostrum' is produced in a small amount which is perfect for your newborn's tummy.

Early and frequent feeding is the best way to establish your supply. Establishing your supply means that the amount of breast milk you produce matches exactly what your baby needs. Breastfeeding is a supply and demand system. The more you breastfeed, the more milk your body produces.

Your partner will feel left out

There are still lots of ways partners can bond with your baby and plenty of ways they can help you. For example:

  • holding and cuddling the baby
  • changing nappies
  • burping the baby
  • bathing the baby
  • bringing you water or snacks while you are feeding

Modern formula is just as good

No formula protects your baby from infections and diseases the way breast milk does. This is because there are antibodies and immune-protecting substances in breast milk that are not found in formula. Formula is not sterile and needs to be safely prepared. If you decide to formula feed, your nurse or midwife will help you.

Breastfeeding will make your breasts sag

Breastfeeding will not make your breasts sag. Pregnancy hormones can stretch the ligaments that support your breasts. The ageing process can also make breasts appear to sag. Wearing a well-fitting bra during pregnancy and while breastfeeding can help to combat breast sag.

You should stop breastfeeding if you have an infection

This is not true. Antibodies to the infection are passed into the breast milk and this stops your baby becoming ill.

You can't take medicine while breastfeeding

There are very few medicines that you can't take safely while breastfeeding. A very small amount of most medicines appears in the milk, but usually in such small amounts that there is no concern.

If a medicine is something you're worried about, there are usually equally effective, alternative medicines that are safe to take while breastfeeding. Talk to your GP before taking medication.

You have to stop breastfeeding at 6 months

You do not have to stop breastfeeding at any set time. The World Health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months and then continued breastfeeding, in addition to complementary food, until 2 years and beyond.

 

Useful Breastfeeding Resources

 

  1. Breastfeeding Policy for Tusla Staff
  2. The HSE have lactation consultants on hand to answer your breastfeeding questions, either through their live chat function, or by email.
  3. There are breastfeeding support groups located all around the country. You will find the contact details of each group by clicking the link above. Covid restrictions will impact groups differently so please contact the group coordinator for more information.
  4. There are various links on the HSE website to FACTSHEETS relating to breastfeeding, including: ‘Breastfeeding a good start in life’ and ‘Breastfeeding and expressing for your premature or sick baby’.
  5. There are several more topics covering how to breastfeed your baby on the HSE website – find them HERE
  6. Kellymom’s website about parenting and breastfeeding has lots of useful information and articles covering all aspects of breastfeeding
  7. The Citizens Information website also has some useful information and links.
  8. The UK charity Tommy’s has a section on feeding your baby which covers breastfeeding, along with all other aspects of feeding in general.  

 

References:

  1. https://www2.hse.ie/wellbeing/babies-and-children/breastfeeding/
  2. https://www2.hse.ie/wellbeing/babies-and-children/breastfeeding/a-good-start/importance/
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