Breastfeeding

NI Direct

Breast milk provides all the nutrients your baby needs for healthy development in the first stages of life. Breastfeeding is the healthiest way to feed your baby and has many important benefits for both mother and baby.

The importance of breastfeeding

Exclusive breastfeeding (giving your baby breast milk only) is recommended for the first six months of your baby's life as breast milk provides all the nutrients a baby needs. After this, you can still continue to breastfeed with other food and drinks for as long as you and your baby like.

Breastfeeding your baby is important because:

  • breast milk is the natural first food for babies - it's the food specifically designed for your baby
  • breast milk changes as your baby grows so your baby will get all the nutrients, growth factors and hormones needed for optimum nutrition, development and health
  • breast milk contains antibodies from you which helps protect your baby from infections
  • breastfeeding helps to avoid constipation in your baby
  • breastfed babies are less likely to get allergies like eczema
  • breastfed babies are less likely to become obese in later childhood

Ill or pre-term infants especially benefit from the antibodies, hormones, enzymes and growth factors contained in breast milk. The human milk bank can provide donor breast milk for babies in neonatal units.

Mothers

Breastfeeding is important for mothers because:

  • it can help to build a strong bond between you and your baby
  • it lowers your risk of getting breast and ovarian cancer
  • it is free
  • it naturally uses up to 500 calories a day
  • there is no need to sterilise bottles, prepare feeds or keep your baby waiting
  • you can do it anytime, anyplace, anywhere
  • it's a lot easier than bottle-feeding, especially in the middle of the night
  • your womb will return to normal size more quickly

Any amount of breastfeeding has positive effects for both child and mother. The longer you breastfeed your baby, the greater the effect on improving your child's health.

Useful resources

We are delighted to provide this FREE digital toolkit. Designed in partnership with the...
This includes: Raising awareness of depression and Aware NI services at a wide range of...
Around one in five women will experience a mental health issue during pregnancy or within...
Affected by breast cancer? Join this group to share experiences and ask questions to...
Cancer Focus NI can provide a wide range of presentations to meet the needs of your...
The Menopause Project is an education and research project between Informing Choices NI...
This programme is a six week training programme for groups of adults and focuses on...
We all have good and bad days but what and when we eat can influence our mood, energy,...
Sometimes when faced with an unplanned or crisis pregnancy it is difficult to discuss it...
There are a number of health campaigns throughout the year to raise awareness of...
Cancer Focus NI, Keeping Well vans are mobile drop-in units which bring health checks,...

Articles & Videos

Helplines & Web Chats

Informing Choices NI - Helpline
Royal Osteoporosis Society - Helpline
Macmillan - Forum
Macmillan - Ask an expert
Women's Aid - Forum
Association for Post-Natal Illness Helpline
Women's Aid - Domestic abuse helpline