Hi, mamas! I’m Lacey Parr, a lactation educator and blog manager here at Lactation Link. I’m also a birth advocate and have birthed my 3 children in all different scenarios and am excited to discuss a few tips for labor and delivery to make breastfeeding easier!
We know that prenatal breastfeeding education is a big factor in breastfeeding success (1). We are thrilled to help moms get the information they need prior to birth to have a successful breastfeeding experience. In addition to prenatal education, there are a few ways to help breastfeeding get off to a good start. Labor and delivery is one place to look.
When all the focus is on helping mom and baby have a safe delivery, we might forget about a few things during labor and delivery that can help make breastfeeding easier. Here are a few things about labor and delivery that not only help you have a more enjoyable experience, they can also help get breastfeeding started well. Be sure to discuss any of these options with your healthcare provider and place of birth.
Tips for labor & delivery to make breastfeeding easier:
- Have a doula present. A doula is a trained professional who is hired by the mother to give emotional and physical support during labor and birth. She does not perform exams or monitor the the baby like a midwife or a doctor. Doulas often help mothers achieve unmedicated birth and aim to support the mother initiate breastfeeding. The mother and doula have a relationship prior to the birth and having peer and community support is helpful to breastfeeding success. Doulas also help mom find resources prior to birth like breastfeeding education. Also, doulas care for one mother at a time. For mothers giving birth in the hospital, they are being cared for by a nurse and healthcare provider that are often caring for several other patients simultaneously. This is when doulas and hospitals can work really well together to help moms. A doula usually stays with mom continuously until 2-3 hours after the birth and is there to assist in the first feeding, if needed. If a mom has more breastfeeding concerns, help from an IBCLC is best. We now have 4 IBCLCs on staff and can help with your breastfeeding concerns in an e-Consult or in-person.
- Consider alternative pain management options. More than two-thirds of moms in the U.S. use an epidural for pain management during labor (3). But did you know that unmedicated births can have more positive breastfeeding outcomes (4)? Keep in mind that many, many women are able to breastfeed successfully after an epidural. However, I recommend taking a quality childbirth class even if you plan to get an epidural because it will prepare you to handle labor before you arrive at the hospital and while you are waiting for the anesthesiologist (something I missed with my first birth!). Pain management options such as movement, counter pressure, hypnotherapy, breathing techniques and more will be helpful during labor. Using alternative pain management tools will allow you to be more in control of your birth and can help you get started breastfeeding. A quality, in-depth childbirth class from a trained childbirth educator will give you and your partner lots of tools for pain management during birth.
- Immediate skin to skin. Immediate skin to skin means that as soon as baby is born, they are put directly on your chest, before measurements, before swaddling. The benefits of immediate skin to skin are numerous (5). Immediate skin to skin after birth allows for a beautiful surge in oxytocin (the love hormone!) to flood mom and baby. Your chest is your baby’s home and the best way to start breastfeeding. In healthy, full-term infants, all necessary immediate measures can be done on your chest. Height and weight measurements can wait and can be done at the bedside. The largest organization of obstetricians and gynecologists in the U.S. (American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) now even recommend waiting to cut the cord, which can help facilitate immediate skin to skin time (6). Skin to skin can even occur in the operating room. Be sure to discuss these options with your healthcare team.
Luckily, moms and babies are incredibly resilient and many are able to meet their breastfeeding goals without a doula, immediate skin to skin or after a medicated or surgical birth. There is no right or perfect way to birth or feed your baby. I only wish you an experience that makes you feel informed, confident, strong, supported and loved. Did anything you do during labor and delivery help set you up for breastfeeding success? How did your birth attendants help you start breastfeeding well?
More on preparing to breastfeed from Lactation Link:
Thanks for stopping by,
Lacey Parr, BS, CLE
(1) Rosen, IM., Krueger, MV., Carney, LM., Graham, JA. (2008) Prenatal Breastfeeding Education and Breastfeeding Outcomes. The American Journal of Maternal and Child Nursing. 33 (5). 315-19. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18758336
(2) Gruber, KJ., Cupito, S.H., Dobson, C.F. (2013) Impact of Doulas on Healthy Birth Outcomes. The Journal of Perinatal Education. 22(1) 49-58. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3647727/
(3) National Vital Statistics Report. (2011) 59(11). Retrieved from: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr59/nvsr59_05.pdf
(4) Montgomery, A., Hale, T. and the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. (2012). Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine Protocol #15: Analgesia and Anesthesia for the Breastfeeding Mother. 7 (6). Retrieved from: http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/pdf/10.1089/bfm.2012.9977
(5) Vila-Candel, R., Duke, K., Soriano-Vidal, J., Castro-Sanchez, E. (2017). Effect of early skin-to-skin mother-infant contact in the maintenance of exclusive breastfeeding. Journal of Human Lactation. Retrieved from journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/0890334416676469.
(6) ACOG News Release 2016. Retrieved from: https://www.acog.org/About-ACOG/News-Room/News-Releases/2016/Delayed-Umbilical-Cord-Clamping-for-All-Healthy-Infants