Wednesday, 21 July 2010

How did my births affect breastfeeding?

 Welcome to The Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival!

This post was written as part of The Breastfeeding Cafe's Carnival. For more info on the Breastfeeding Cafe, go to For more info on The Carnival or if you want to participate, contact Claire at clindstrom2 {at} gmail {dot} com. Today's post is about Birth Experiences and Breastfeeding. Please read the other blogs in today's carnival listed below and check back for more posts July 18th through the 31st!

I have two children, both whom were/are breastfed. I had two very different birth experiences, although ultimately both were hospital vaginal deliveries and breastfeeding was successful. I hadn't really given it a great deal of thought as to whether the birth made any difference in initiating breastfeeding.

Noah, now 5 was born when I was 27, relatively uninformed about birth, although I was fairly educated about breastfeeding. I took antenatal classes where they taught us about pain relief available but they did not talk about any alternative methods other than drugs, it was all either take the drugs or go natural, there was no other option presented. I didn't see the point in experiencing pain if I really didn't have to, so I opted to have an epidural, thinking I would be painfree and enjoy my birth.

It didn't work out that way. My epidural did not take properly, leaving me numb down one side but still feeling everything down the other. I told the anaesthetist that I was still feeling pain but rather than adjusting my position at all I was just told to be patient and it would start to work. It never did.

On the positive side it didn't seem to slow my labour down, although I suspect it made pushing harder, as despite feeling pain I did not have the proper urge to push that I experienced with my second birth. After my baby was born I was not allowed to hold him at first or breastfeed for some reason until I had been stitched up which took half an hour as I tore very badly.

Breastfeeding was difficult initially. Noah struggled to latch, and I would look longingly at other mothers in the ward feeding their babies formula. The lactation consultant on the ward was useless, she came around when I was already feeding him, said everything looked great and that was it. I credit a nursing auxiliary who was there in the middle of the night when I was struggling one time and showed me how to position my baby properly with my breastfeeding success, as the only person who really gave me proper practical help.

I do wonder if the drugs I was given made some sort of impact on our latching as well. There is evidence to suggest that this may be the case.

My second birth was completely unmedicated. I endeavoured to have a different experience with my first, to avoid an epidural, and chose a birthing pool, still in the hospital, I also stayed home until I was quite advanced (I arrived in hospital dilated to 9cm). Pushing was entirely different in that my body took over and it was much easier compared to the "purple pushing" I'd experienced the first time around.
I still tore, but not anywhere near as badly and they waited to stitch me until baby and I had had our first breastfeed, which we did when we were still both in the water. Seamus had no latching issues at all, I felt very empowered in my birth and confident in my body's ability to provide for my child just as I had birthed him without medical intervention. Our road to successful breastfeeding wasn't entirely smooth, as I think I've mentioned in another post, but at least initiation went smoothly.

I think that drugs given in labour do have an impact on breastfeeding, but I suspect it is not only because of them crossing the placenta and affecting the baby, I feel there is also an element of confidence involved as well, if the mother has experienced a cascade of interventions and ends up feeling that she somehow "failed" or did not get the birth she wanted I think that can affect her first breastfeeding experiences as well on a psychological level.

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1 comment:

  1. both of your birth experiences sounds very similar to mine, in that order. . . thank you for sharing!