The Impact of Birthing Practices on Breastfeeding

I am just back from a 3 day course on lactation management based on the WHO/UNICEF 20 hour course. I was not able to write a blog entry for a few days, but I think the wait was worth it. This course was a real eye opener.

All moms are told and know that breastfeeding is best for their babies and a vast majority of moms do want to breastfeed their babies (86% of moms initiate breastfeeding in Canada). What most of them do not know is that birthing practices affect the outcome of breastfeeding. Coming out of this course, I believe that a lot of mothers would change the way they plan their delivery if they had been informed of this fact: the more medicalised a birth is, the more breastfeeding problems a mom and baby may run into.

Very common practices are induction (44.8% rate in Canada in 2006, while the World Health Organization states that 10% of inductions are medically justified) and epidurals. Induction is when a birth is medically provoked by giving hormones like ocytocin to the mother. It doubles the risk of cesarieans for first time moms (the c-section rate is of 26% in Canada), but it often also means that the baby will come out a little too early and may not have all the maturity needed to suckle at the breast like a full term infant. Most inductions lead to epidurals, as the contractions are stronger and more painful than natural contractions. Epidurals can be great at taking away the pain, and moms should be informed that all drugs given during labor go into the placenta. When a mother has an epidural, the baby will come out drugged and less interested by the breast. Can you imagine the distress for mothers who were not informed of the risks of birthing practices on breastfeeding ? They feel guilty for the breastfeeding difficulties they run into when in fact they were not able to give a well informed consent. Let’s do something about this !

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