Your Baby Breastfeed Before It's Even Born
By Barbara L. Behrmann, Ph.D.
hurt." "My baby was too sleepy to nurse." "I
didn't have enough milk." All are comments new moms make every
day when talking about first nursing their babies. And all are challenges
that can often be avoided.
growing body of research reveals profound connections between a
woman's birth experience and her ability to get breastfeeding off
to a good start. Well-known lactation consultant Linda Smith asserts
that common obstetrical practices, including medical, technological,
and surgical interventions, can create all kinds of problems, involving
a baby's ability to breath, suck and swallow properly; the mother's
comfort level, and the ability of a mother and baby to remain together
immediately after the birth.
childbirth and breastfeeding are typically treated as separate and
unrelated events. But if you think of putting your baby to your
breast as the fourth stage of labor (following dilation, pushing
out the baby, and birthing the placenta) it can help you visualize
bottom line is, the less intervention you have at birth, the less
likely you are to have problems breastfeeding. So why make the beginning
of your parenting journey extra challenging? After all, you wouldn't
set out on a vacation driving with a flat tire? And if nursing goes
well in the first few days, you'll be more likely to stick with
it. Given that Americans spend an extra 3.6 billion dollars a year
to care for babies fed formula, it makes sense to do a little homework
ahead of time.
are eight things you can do to help your baby - and you - get off
to the best start possible.
Take a childbirth education class and consider looking outside of
the hospital to find one. Chose an instructor certified by a national
organization (such as Lamaze, Bradley, or International Childbirth
Education Association), with the freedom to present accurate and
complete information. You want to be empowered to be an active participants
throughout your labor, not simply prepared for what to expect in
the hospital setting. The more empowered you are during birth, the
more empowered you'll be to nurse.
Find out what your practitioner's rates are for labor inductions,
epidurals, c-sections, and v-bacs (vaginal birth after cesarean)
and compare the statistics between hospitals. Then chose the provider
and hospital with the lowest rates. Rates for all these procedures
have dramatically increased in recent years without a corresponding
increase or improvement in birth weight and birth outcomes.
this affect breastfeeding? You bet. Epidurals, for example, can
make labor less productive, setting into place a cascade of interventions,
often culminating in a c-section. As of 2004 the national c-section
rate was an unprecedented 29.1% and rising steadily. Studies suggest
that women who give birth via c-section are less likely to room-in
with their babies and are less likely to be breastfeeding several
weeks later. And the less likely you are to be in pain after the
birth, the more difficult it will be to focus on the needs of your
Ask your provider how they can help you labor comfortably without
using drugs. Find out if you can labor (and even birth) in a tub,
if you can eat and drink for energy, and what kind of support you
will have. Ask to have sporadic instead of continuous fetal monitoring.
You will be more able to labor comfortably if you have the freedom
to move around and it's impossible to do so when you are strapped
to a machine. Remember that in most cases, the more gently you are
treated, the more gently your baby is treated.
Locate a childbirth doula (pronounced DOO-la). Doulas offer emotional
and physical support to women and provide various combinations of
support before, during and after the birth. Studies show that having
a doula at your birth shortens labor, cuts in half the odds of having
an unnecessary c-section, and helps women feel more satisfied about
their birth. Contact DONA, Doulas of North American at www.dona.org.
Two other organizations that train doulas are: CAPPA - Childbirth
and Postpartum Professional Association (www.cappa.net) and ALACE
- Association of Labor Assistants and Childbirth Educators (www.alace.org).
Find out what your hospital's post-partum policies are. Immediate
skin-to-skin contact and being able to have your baby "room-in"
with you increases breastfeeding's success. Drying the baby, assigning
Apgar scores, and doing the initial assessment typically should
be done while your baby is with you. You can also delay having your
baby cleaned, weighed, measured and bathed until after he or she
has had a chance to nurse.
Request, in writing, that your baby be given no supplemental bottles
of formula or glucose. Supplemental feedings of formula in the hospital
have almost doubled in the past ten years, a practice known to derail
Attend a La Leche League meeting before giving birth, especially
if you've never been around nursing mothers.
Overall, know your rights as a patient. You have the right to participate
in decision-making involving you and your baby and you have the
right to know the benefits, risks and hazards of drugs and procedures.
Remember: as the authors of "A Good Birth, A Safe Birth observe,
"If you don't know your options, you don't have any."
Academy of Pediatrics: Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk.
Section on Breastfeeding. Pediatrics. 2005; 115; 496-506. Accessible
for Improving Maternity Seravices: "Having a Baby? Ten Questions
Ina May. 2003. Ina May's Guide to Childbirth. New York, NY: Bantam
Books., page 165.
Mary. With Linda J. Smith. 2004. Impact of Birthing Practices on
Breastfeeding: Protecting the Mother and Baby Continuum. Sudbury,
MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.
Joyce A., MPH; Brady E. Hamilton, Ph.D.; Fay Menacker, Ph.D.; Paul
D. Sutton, Ph.D.; and T.J. Mathews, M.S. Preliminary Births for
2004: Infant and Maternal Health. 2004. Division of Vital Statistics.
CDC's National Center for Health Statistics.
Alan S., Zhou Wenjun, Andrew Acosta. 2002. "Breastfeeding Continues
to Increase Into the New Millennium." Pediatrics. Vol. 110,
No. 6. pages 1103-1109.
L. Behrmann, Ph.D. is a writer, researcher, and author of The Breastfeeding
Café: Mothers Share the Joys, Secrets & Challenges of
Nursing, University of Michigan Press, 2005. She is a frequent speaker
around the country and is available for talks, readings, and conducting
birthing and breastfeeding writing circles. The mother of two formerly
breastfed children, Barbara lives in upstate New York. For more
information, visit: www.breastfeedingcafe.com
information presented on this site is intended solely as a general
educational aid, and is neither medical nor healthcare advice for
any individual problem, nor a substitute for medical or other professional
advice and services from a qualified healthcare provider familiar
with your unique circumstances. Always seek the advice of your physician
or other qualified healthcare professional regarding any medical
condition and before starting any new treatment.