There are many benefits of breastfeeding for both you and your baby. Your breast milk provides all the nutrients your baby needs for growth and development. 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. Breastfeeding also helps your womb recover more quickly after birth and reduces your risk of certain diseases. You can read more about the benefits of breastfeeding for you and your baby on the HSE website.
Breastfeeding is a natural way to feed your baby, though it can be difficult particularly at the start. It's a skill that you and your baby learn together. You are more likely to succeed if you have support and all the information you need.
MyChild.ie from the HSE has information on pregnancy, baby and toddler health, and related health services and support.
Getting help with breastfeeding
You can prepare for breastfeeding in advance of your baby’s arrival. The more information you have, the more likely you are to get off to a good start and succeed.
The HSE has information on everything you need to know about breastfeeding, for example:
- Where to get expert information
- Antenatal classes
- How to express milk
- Positioning and attachment of your baby
- Breastfeeding support groups near you
If you find breastfeeding difficult or have questions about it, there are many people who can help and support you.
Antenatal classes before you give birth
When you are pregnant, antenatal classes can help you prepare for the birth of your baby. The classes cover a wide range of topics including breastfeeding. Some hospitals run special breastfeeding programmes that you can sign up for when you are pregnant so you can prepare yourself for breastfeeding and talk to experts about any questions your may have. Check with your local hospital or public health nurse what classes are available in your area.
At the hospital or at home
After you give birth, your midwife will have lots of experience with breastfeeding mothers and will be able to help you get started. You can also get help from lactation consultants who have specific training in breastfeeding support. Many hospitals run a weekly drop-in breastfeeding clinic so you can talk to breastfeeding experts and other mothers, and get ongoing support.
At your local health centre
Breastfeeding support groups are run by public health nurses and lactation consultants in your local health centre. Meetings usually take place weekly. You and other mothers can meet breastfeeding experts, share information and discuss any problems you might have. Check where and when your local breastfeeding support group takes place.
Your public health nurse or general practice nurse can also refer you to a community lactation consultant for expert advice. The HSE also has a ‘Ask our breastfeeding expert’ service where you can ‘live chat’ or email a breastfeeding expert for advice, Monday to Friday, 10am – 3pm.
Cuidiú has trained breastfeeding counsellors all over the country.
La Leche League of Ireland is a voluntary group which provides information and support to parents who want to breastfeed their babies. Their services include telephone counselling and monthly group meetings.
Breastfeeding support groups
Breastfeeding support groups take place all around Ireland. At breastfeeding support groups, mothers share breastfeeding advice and socialise. There are also opportunities to speak with a breastfeeding expert about any questions you have. These groups also encourage pregnant women to come along before you have your baby if you are considering breastfeeding and want to find out how to prepare.
Friends of Breastfeeding have trained ‘Breastfeeding Buddies’ who are available to give you breastfeeding support by text, phone, email or video call.
You can read more about what happens at a breastfeeding support group.
Breastfeeding in public in Ireland
You can breastfeed in any public place in Ireland and you do not have to ask anyone for permission. Some places may offer a private area if you would like this, but you do not have to use it.
Breastfeeding and employment
If you are working in Ireland and breastfeeding your baby, you are entitled to take time off work each day to breastfeed. This applies to all women (or birthing parents) in employment who have given birth within the previous 2 years (104 weeks). Employers do not have to provide facilities in the workplace to facilitate breastfeeding if providing such facilities would give rise to considerable costs. At the choice of your employer, you are entitled to:
- Breastfeed in the workplace or express breast milk, where suitable facilities are available in your workplace, or
- Have your working hours reduced (without loss of pay) to facilitate breastfeeding where suitable facilities are not available.
If you are working and breastfeeding, you are entitled to take 1 hour off work (with pay) each day as a breastfeeding break for up to 2 years (104 weeks) after birth. This time may be taken as:
- One 60 minute break
- Two 30 minute breaks
- Three 20 minute breaks
Breaks may be longer and more frequent if agreed between you and your employer. Check with your employer what their policy is.
Part-time workers are also entitled to breastfeeding breaks, calculated on a pro-rata basis.
Your right to time off is set out under Section 9 of the Maternity Protection (Amendment) Act 2004, as amended by the Work Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Act 2023.
Returning to work while still breastfeeding
If you want to continue to breastfeed when you return to work, you must notify your employer (in writing) of your intention to breastfeed at work. You should confirm this at least 4 weeks before the date you plan to return to work from your maternity leave. Employers can require you to supply the child’s birth certificate (or some other document confirming the child’s date of birth).
The Health Service Executive (HSE) website has a wide range of information and resources for anyone planning to breastfeed. It has advice, tips and information for parents interested in breastfeeding and details of support groups throughout the country.