New video launched to showcase benefits of breastfeeding for premature and neonatal babies


The Public Health Agency (PHA) and colleagues from the Neonatal Network Northern Ireland (NNNI) have launched a new video highlighting the benefits of breastfeeding and showcasing the support that is available to mums and families of premature babies and babies in neonatal units to encourage them to breastfeed in those early days.

Dr Joanne McClean, Director of Public Health at the PHA, said: “Breast milk is important for all babies and is particularly beneficial for premature babies and those who need extra support in the neonatal unit. There are significant clinical benefits to giving breast milk to your premature or neonatal baby.

“Breast milk helps protect babies from infections, especially of their gut – which is particularly important for premature babies who are more likely to get infections. It contains hormones, nutrients and growth factors that will help babies grow and develop, and breast milk is also easier for babies to digest than formula milk. This is because breast milk is specially designed by your body for your baby.

“This video has been developed to showcase the benefits of breast milk for both mum and baby at a neonatal stage, which can be very challenging for families. It highlights a range of support services available to help mums and families on their breastfeeding journey and will be on computer tablets in neonatal units across Northern Ireland.”

Dr McClean continued: “If your baby is very small or sick, they may not be able to breastfeed from your breast at first, but you can start regularly collecting your breast milk – called expressing – as soon as possible after your baby is born. This will help get your milk supply going and it can be provided to your baby in other ways. If there is any extra milk expressed it can also be frozen so you can give it to your baby at another time, once you and your baby are ready. Even if you were not planning to breastfeed, you could express your breast milk for a while to help boost your baby's immune system in the early weeks after birth.”

Dr Alison Walker, Clinical Lead at the NNNI, said: “Being the parent of a sick or early baby can be a very emotional experience. Parents often feel like their baby is being cared for by doctors and nurses, but parents are a crucial part of the baby’s life in what can be a difficult time. Being close to your baby and talking to them so they hear your already familiar voice is reassuring for babies and releases a hormone that is important for brain development.

“Providing your breastmilk at this time is an important and unique way you can help your baby. Your breastmilk is specifically made to help your baby grow and develop but also provides antibodies which can protect your baby from infection.

“We are delighted to have this new resource available to families in Northern Ireland. Co-production of information and resources within neonatal care is very important as we aim to support and include parents and families in the management of their baby’s care.”

Tiny Life service user explains how the support while her child was receiving care helped her: “Thank you for making the hardest journey of our lives a little easier. Being supported to feed my son made me feel connected to him, like I was contributing to his success.”

Whether you need information on the benefits of breastfeeding, support with breastfeeding or you want to know how you can help support a friend or family member on their breastfeeding journey, the first step is simple, visit the PHA's website, for information on all types of support available.

To view the full video, see