Breastfeeding and Childbirth
When I think back to some of my favorite memories after the births of each of my children, the moments that always stand out are those peaceful times when I was able to place each baby to my breast for the first time. All of my children were born in the hospital, and even among the chaos of nurses and technicians coming and going, those precious first moments of nursing are something that I can still recollect vividly to this day, three and half years after my youngest child was born. I was fortunate to have had an easy start to breastfeeding for each of my children, and I credit that at least in part to the fact that I was able to breastfeed each baby so soon after birth. In all of my reading prior to childbirth, the one thing always emphasized was the importance of those first early feedings.
My first child was born in 1996, at a point when I had no access to the internet, and hence, no access to the wonderful breastfeeding information that can be found so easily nowadays via a simple search engine! StorkNet has compiled a comprehensive list of breastfeeding articles during the past several years, and it is from this extensive archive that I have pinpointed a few articles and interviews which may help you have an early and positive start to breastfeeding.
A basic knowledge of breastfeeding is helpful and essential, and in this article, Gaye Johnson discusses ways to get a good start at breastfeeding. She writes:
How can I get a good start at breastfeeding?
Probably before you even start breastfeeding, you can be setting the foundation for success! The more prepared you are, the better your chances of knowing what to do to get a good start! Reading a good book, such as The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, joining a breastfeeding support group such as La Leche League, and perhaps attending a breastfeeding class are great starts! StorkNet has a wealth of information in this cubby as well, and joining in at our forum is helpful to many women as well. EDUCATION and SUPPORT are all-important!
Having some basic breastfeeding knowledge, such as how to latch a baby, how to know whether baby is getting enough milk, and how to recognise if there is a problem and knowing some of the common pitfalls, such as introducing a bottle or pacifier too early, feeding by the clock, and accepting breastfeeding pain as normal can make the difference between a nightmare first few weeks or a pleasant experience.
If you are having your baby in a hospital, then trying to pick a hospital which is breastfeeding-friendly can make a big difference. If no such hospital exists near you then don't despair! You have every right as your baby's mother to request that no bottles be given and that your baby be with you ("rooming in"). Rooming in greatly assists nursing on demand and gives you a chance to get to know your baby and get some practise at breastfeeding before you go home.
Dr Jack Newman writes in this article of the importance of putting the baby to the breast immediately after childbirth:
The baby should be at the breast immediately after birth. The vast majority of newborns can be at the breast within minutes of birth. Indeed, research has shown that, given the chance, many babies only minutes old will crawl up to the breast from the mother's abdomen, latch on and start breastfeeding all by themselves. This process may take up to an hour or longer, but the mother and baby should be given this time together to start learning about each other. Babies who "self-attach" run into far fewer breastfeeding problems. This process does not take any effort on the mother's part, and the excuse that it cannot be done because the mother is tired after labour is nonsense, pure and simple. Incidentally, studies have also shown that studies have also shown that skin-to-skin contact between mothers and babies keeps the baby as warm as an incubator.
In this interview, Elaine Moran discusses uterine contractions that take place post-partum and the benefits of breastfeeding in helping to shrink the uterus after childbirth:
After childbirth, as your uterus gradually shrinks and makes its descent back into the pelvis, you may experience mild contractions called "after-pains." These after-pains feel similar to menstrual cramps and may be mild to fairly strong. During the first few days postpartum, they may be more intense when you are nursing your baby, since the same hormone (oxytocin) that delivers early milk to your baby also causes your uterus to contract. These after-pains become more pronounced with each subsequent pregnancy. Another great advantage about breastfeeding is that it helps the uterus shrink back to its normal size more quickly and reduces the flow of lochia by stimulating these uterine contractions and constricting uterine blood vessels. These after-pains should subside within a few days postpartum.
Planning and preparation before birth is the best route to success when beginning a breastfeeding relationship with your child and the importance of those early feedings cannot be overstated. However, as you can see in the many wonderful articles in StorkNet's Breastfeeding Cubby, you may encounter challenges and obstacles as you and your baby enter into your nursing relationship. So if for some reason those early feedings do not work out as you hope, take heart because help is always available: contact a registered lactation consultant or LaLeche League.
Happy birthing and nursing!
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