Set Up To Fail at the Breast

Hearing many women share their stories of how frustrating it was for them to breast feed, had me wondering about the depth of the impact of the many interventions, that come with an institutionalized birth system. With the rising cesarean rate and increased interventions such as labor drugs during childbirth, is it wrong to consider that we may  have been set up to to fail at breast feeding?

Oxytocin and ergometrine are regularly given to women in order to reduce their risk of postpartum hemorrhaging, even when the risk is already low. Oxytocin is also used in labor in order to stimulate contractions, but this use was not examined in the current study.
Among women who had not been given either drug  following the delivery of their child, 65.5 percent began breastfeeding within 48 hours. Among women who had received oxytocin, only 59.1 percent did so, while only 54.6 percent of women who received both drugs began breastfeeding within 2 days.
The researchers suggested that the anti-bleeding drugs could interfere with milk production, thus making breastfeeding more difficult and causing new mothers to give up in frustration.
The study also found that high doses of painkillers known as epidurals also reduce a woman's chance of breastfeeding. Prior studies have also found this connection.
Learn more:
Ninety-nine percent of moms birth in hospitals. Yet, our cesarean rates continue to soar, as do elective cesareans. Does this impact breast feeding success? Does it contribute to the frustrations that so many mothers seem to share?

What are those challenges?  Linda Smith, in The Impact of Birthing Practices on Breastfeeding cites research showing that the following breastfeeding-related outcomes are associated with cesarean birth:
  • Significant delays in initiating the first feeding
  • Increased risk of separation from mother following birth, and increased risk of baby being admitted to the NICU
  • Delayed onset of mature milk supplies (“milk coming in”)
  • For babies:  altered sucking patterns, decreased neurological responses in the first two days, increased risk of respiratory problems in babies born by cesarean without labor, respiratory distress, low blood sugar, higher risk of infection in babies born by cesarean before 39 weeks gestation
  • For mothers:  a longer and more painful recovery, lower oxytocin and prolactin levels in the early postpartum period, increased risk of rehospitalization and infection, higher rates of anxiety and stress, higher risk of exposure to medications of concern
  • In elective cesarean without labor, reduced fetal endorphins and less endorphins (which act as pain killers) in breastmilk ~~ Best for Babes
The World Alliance for Breastfeeding lists standard birthing care practices that can impact breast feeding. Here are some that I found interesting:

  1. Withholding Food and Drink during labor
  2. IV Hydration
  3. Episiotomies
  4. Restricting movement during labor
You can read more here

I commented on a post that was mainly negative towards breast feeding. Quite naturally, it sparked a debate. One comment in particular really struck response to another comment about things we can to do to encourage breast feeding, this comment-er said, "Why can't some moms just not be able to breastfeed?"

I thought, yes...that can be the scenario, but what a burden for a mom to bear! We are told how wonderful breast feeding is, and like good moms, we desire the best for our children and attempt to follow the recommended guidelines. Yet...are moms warned? Are they aware of the link between the various routine and standard birth practices that do show a link between it and breast feeding success? 

How unfair and cruel not to share this information with moms with a true desire to breast feed. Without a doubt, it is a clear set up for failure if a mom is not warned of these risks and experiences them after the fact. 

If you're considering nursing your coming little one, I strongly encourage you research this. Here are few links to get you started.

Drugs Given During Labour Linked to Breast Feeding Problems
Epidurals and Newborn Feeding
Booby Trap Series (Cesareans/Breast Feeding)


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