breastfeeding success

Born to Breastfeed Why Birth Matters to the Nursing Relationship

Everything you need to know about breastfeeding success. We hope that our advice and tips will solve your problems.

Those moms who decide to breastfeed their children do so out of love, concern and their family’s situation and needs. Most go into breastfeeding confidently; after all, it’s natural, isn’t it? What many women don’t understand is that the actual birth may have a huge impact on breastfeeding success.

Brandy Francis of DeWitt, Mich., believes the problems she had with delivery may have been the reason for her breastfeeding failure. Her son, Taylor, was a large baby, and for many reasons, she and her doctor decided to induce labor. After 12 hours her son was born via  cesarean section.

“The next morning, I started my attempts at breastfeeding, but he refused to latch on the whole three days we were in the hospital,” says Francis. “When I got home, I kept trying, but it was no use. So I started giving him formula because he was so hungry.”

Francis was devastated about her lack of success and plans to do things differently for her next child. She isn’t sure what happened with Taylor but feels that something during the birth may have had an effect on her ability to breastfeed successfully.

“I think something that happened during the birthing process may have caused my lack of breast milk or his inability to latch on,” says Francis. “I don’t know whether it was the induction, the epidural or the C-section … it just didn’t make any sense.”

What’s the Scoop?

So does the manner of birth a mother and child experience affect breastfeeding success? Opinions vary. Dr. Brendan W., assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology, doesn’t believe so. “The easier birth does not lend itself to a more successful breastfeeding experience,” says Dr. Brendan. He even says that, “the quality of the birth has no effect on future breastfeeding success.”

Other experts disagree. Sophie M., nurse and lactation consultant in Chicago, Ill., believes there is a strong connection between birth and breastfeeding success. “While there is no clinical data or research literature to back this up, any maternity nurse can tell you that, generally speaking, the more straightforward the birth, the easier the breastfeeding will be,” she says.

This, of course, doesn’t include other complications such as a premature, sick, tongue-tied baby or other physical barriers that may hinder breastfeeding, like inverted or flat nipples.

According to Sophie, as soon as the birth is complicated by medications for things like pre-eclampsia, excess blood loss, infection or pain, or the labor becomes prolonged and such things as forceps or vacuum extractions occur, the mom becomes more tired and depleted, as does the baby. “All of these things have an impact on initial breastfeeding contact: when it occurs, how often and how well or poorly it goes,” she says.

To learn about pre-eclampsia : What is Preeclampsia in Pregnancy?

Though Sophie is quick to point out that it has never been conclusively proven in any large-scale study that drugs given during birth have an impact on breastfeeding, she believes it is because the measures of “impact” on the baby used in these studies were gross measures like Apgar scores.

“It is obvious to anyone who works closely with newborn babies on a daily basis that some babies are more sleepy than others after birth, and subtle changes like sleepiness are very difficult to measure in a quantitative way,” says Sophie.

As most lactation consultants know, an unresponsive, overly tired baby is less likely to latch on correctly at the initial contact or even be willing to try. The impact this has on nursing success over the long term is not known.

With the Hospital’s Help

Sophie believes that even more than the quality of birth, breastfeeding success lies in the hospital’s attitude. “An alert, awake baby will crawl up the mom’s body in less than an hour and self-attach to the breast,” she says. “This is well known in Europe, where midwives attend most births and allow infants to crawl to the breast rather than snatching the baby away from the mother’s body so we can measure, count, identify and inject the baby with vitamin K and instill eye ointment.”


Also check our another article about vitamins in pregnancy : Pregnancy Vitamins and Their Benefits

Sophie believes that by taking the baby away to a warming bed and cleaning the baby of the amniotic fluid, we eliminate the baby’s chance to find the mom’s breast by smell, thus complicating the baby’s ability to begin breastfeeding easily.

Dr. Megan S., director of community health programs for the department of medical science and community health, believes that the optimal time to begin breastfeeding is right after birth. “This is the best time to initiate nursing since the baby is awake for usually two hours following delivery,” she says. “After that, they tend to go into a deep sleep, and it is more difficult to wake them and get them interested in nursing.”

Dr. Megan gives the following tips to help mothers ensure that their birth experience helps and does not hinder breastfeeding success:

  • Know exactly what you want before you deliver. Do you want to breastfeed exclusively, breastfeed and supplement, deliver in a Labor/ Delivery/Recovery/Post-Partum room with rooming-in, use a pacifier? This is important because the hospitals generally will follow standard procedures unless a mother states she wants something other than that.
  • Put into writing the type of birth experience you want and how you want the staff to handle your baby. For example, a woman who chooses to nurse exclusively needs to tell the hospital staff that she wants no formula or water from a bottle given to her baby.
  • If possible, it is best to avoid drugs during delivery and to nurse immediately following delivery. Generally, most hospitals will allow the baby to remain with mom for an hour or so after the birth so the couple can get to know each other.
  • Limit visitors. Most hospitals now have open visiting hours, which means people can visit any hour of the day or night. Some women are embarrassed to nurse in front of guests, and they will put off nursing the baby to see visitors. If this happens, the baby may not want to nurse when the mother is ready to nurse, and the baby may end up getting a bottle of formula in the nursery if the mother refuses to nurse when the baby is hungry.
  • New mothers need to realize that the most successful nursing experience comes from realizing that the baby will tell you when he/she is hungry and how much they need to eat at any given point in time. This is referred to as demand feeding and certainly is not spoiling a baby. The new mom and the baby are a nursing couple, and as such, will develop their own way of communicating and interacting. No one else’s timetable or way of doing things should dictate this relationship. It is unique and special.

Our articles are prepared to give advice. Always consult your doctor first for any problems and exact information.

The names of the people mentioned in the article have been changed for security reasons and to protect privacy.