Breastfeeding and Return to Work
Benefits of breastfeeding
Your breastmilk is the only food specifically designed for your baby. As well as having all the nutrients your baby needs to grow and develop, human milk has very special ingredients such as antibodies, hormones and stem cells to help protect your baby now and in the future.
The World Health Organisation recommends that babies are fed on breastmilk on its own for around the first six months of life and then after solids are introduced that breastfeeding continues for two years or longer. Any breastfeeding is better than none at all. It is well worth breastfeeding even for a short time as every day makes a difference to your baby and you. The longer you breastfeed, the longer the protection lasts. Formula milk cannot provide your baby with the same ingredients or give the same protection.
- skin to skin contact following the birth and in the early weeks – this contact is important for bonding, optimal brain development and getting breastfeeding off to a good start
- keeping you and your baby close (rooming in)
- practical skills and knowledge needed to successfully breastfeed your baby – see the Public Health Agency’s book Off to a good start
If your baby is in the Neonatal Unit the benefits of breast milk can be even more important. You will be shown how to express milk by hand and then with a breast pump.
Feeding Your Baby
Expressing Breast Milk
If your baby has been born early, very small, very ill, or with other medical problems, you may be asked to consider expressing your breast milk.
You will start by hand expressing your colostrum (first milk) within two hours of giving birth. After a few days, you will progress to using a hospital-grade breast pump. Midwives and neonatal staff will teach you how to hand express and use a breast pump.
Breast pumps are available on postnatal wards and in the neonatal unit. The Maternity Hospital also has a small number of pumps available to borrow and take home. Breast pumps can be loaned from the charity TinyLife for a small fee.
You will need to express 8 to 10 times in 24 hours to establish your milk supply, including at night. This is sometimes difficult when you are tired, but it is really important as the milk producing hormone prolactin is at its highest level at night.
Don’t worry if you only get a few drops to begin with. Every drop is precious and your milk supply will increase with time. Help and advice is available if you experience any problems.
Breastfeeding Mothers Groups
Breastfeeding mothers groups are available across Northern Ireland. They are usually organised by health professionals such as community midwives and health visitors.
These groups promote breastfeeding by providing support and information to mothers. Breastfeeding mums get an opportunity to share experiences and help each other.
You are welcome to attend a breastfeeding mothers group at any time before or after your baby is born. Details are available from:
Specialist Breastfeeding Support
If you are having concerns about breastfeeding at any stage, our midwives and health visitors are here to help.
If the midwife or health visitor believes specialist help is needed, they can refer you.
If you decide not to breastfeed your baby, our staff will support you to formula feed.
Choosing formula can be very confusing, but it’s important that a baby starts on first milk that is suitable for the whole first year of life.
You can download:
- Breastfed Babies website developed by the Public Health Agency
- Off to a good start book
- Information pack for breastfeeding mums
- Breastfeeding video
- Association of Breastfeeding Mothers
- The Breastfeeding Network
- La Leche League
- National Childbirth Trust
- How Safe is? Poster
- Drugs in Breastmilk factsheets – The Breastfeeding Network
- Breastfeeding Support Groups in BHSCT
- Specialist Breastfeeding Support Team
- Breastfeeding Peer Support Leaflet