Labor, delivery and breastfeeding – know before you go

2015-03-05T21:53:28+00:00March 5th, 2015|Categories: Fertility Blog|Tags: , , , , , , |

Getting ready to welcome your new baby into the world is a time of excitement and anticipation. Unless you have been through giving birth 19 times and counting, it’s unfamiliar territory for us. If you plan to breastfeed, and almost all of us do, it is important to know how your birth plan affects you and your baby’s readiness to breastfeed.

Remember you are in the driver’s seat of your birth experience and your body is your navigator. Listen to your body and be ready to speak up if things are not going in the right direction. If you have a birth plan, share it with your partner and health care team. Watch this fun and informative video comparing 2 birth experiences – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N9KptD3t110

A birth plan that supports breastfeeding will have limited interventions (an intervention is any act that attempts to modify an outcome.) Many interventions can have unintended consequences and we need additional interventions to manage the unwanted side – effects. This phenomenon is common enough to have a name, the Cascade of Interventions.

An example of a common intervention is an epidural (pain medicine injected into the tough membrane around the spine).Laboring can be painful and last for extended periods, so pain control is a common priority of mothers and their support team. However, there are a few undesirable epidural side effects on breastfeeding. Hospital protocol often requires a mother with an epidural to have IV fluids; this is because the epidural can cause a precipitous drop in mom’s blood pressure. The IV fluids moms receives during labor can stay in mom’s tissues (think of your swollen ankles except this time in your breasts) making it difficult for baby to latch on after birth. The extra fluid can transfer to her baby as well, artificially increasing the baby’s weight and causing alarm at the upcoming well-baby check-up when the scale shows a big weight loss (although it is the extra fluid baby received during birth). The pediatrician may direct mom to supplement with formula due to the weight loss, mom feels her milk supply is inadequate and formula becomes the primary food source for baby.

There are many other interventions we accept as part of our hospital birth which can affect our ability to breastfeed. This epidural example illustrates the importance of educating ourselves about birth interventions so we can make the right choice for ourselves and our babies.

Resources: http://www.cochrane.org/CD000331/PREG_epidurals-for-pain-relief-in-labour
https://www.birthinternational.com/articles/birth/15-epidurals-real-risks-for-mother-and-baby-
http://www.childbirthconnection.org/article.asp?ck=10182