What are some of the best labor and birthing practices I can do to help breastfeeding?
I like to encourage moms giving birth in the hospital to look at all the different options available that will encourage natural labor, birthing and closeness with her baby after birth. The more natural labor and delivery and the ability to keep your baby with you will allow the natural process of breastfeeding to go much easier! The more interventions done to a mother and her baby the more difficult breastfeeding can be.
A few excellent things you can do for yourself to help breastfeeding in the hospital:
- Move around, walk, and sway your body around to help bring your baby down the birth canal. Staying in one position on your back does not help!
- Drink to thirst and eat if hungry. Your “running a marathon” you need to stay hydrated and fueled for energy. If you’re not hungry then you don’t have to eat. Listen to what your body wants and needs.
- Any moans or sounds you feel like letting out make them productive! Your natural in born instincts are coming out to help you in labor. If you feel like making noises focus on making them in a low tone, from the bottom of your gut, keep your mouth open and jaw as relaxed as possible when making the sounds. It helps to moan deeply and set an intention for your cervix to open and bring your baby down.
- Push your baby out in a position that helps with gravity and more opening for your baby. Pushing positions like squatting open your body up more and allows gravity to help your baby out.
- You guide your pushing. As long as there are no complications and you and baby are both doing great there is no reason anyone else needs to tell you when to push. Your body will tell you, you will feel incredible urges to know when to push that no one else in the room will feel. This can really help prevent an episiotomy and tearing!
- Be sure to bring your baby directly up to your bare chest right after birth and let the cord stop pulsating before letting anyone cut it. This will help baby acclimate into this strange new world a little easier and allow precious nutrients and iron stores from the umbilical cord to go to your little one.
- Breastfeed your baby as soon as possible within the first hour of birth.
- Stay skin-to-skin with your baby as much as possible!
- Have as many procedures on your baby be completed directly on your chest skin-to-skin. If procedures can’t be done on you then skin-to-skin on your partner is the next best. Things like a bath can totally wait and you can request it be delayed.
Why should I breastfeed my baby as soon as possible after birth?
After your baby is born he/she is strictly running on instincts. Right after birth your baby is at their most active and alert time to initiate breastfeeding. Your first nursing session is so important and critical because the first liquid gold (Colostrum) your baby receives coats their digestive tract with beneficial bacteria and antibodies giving your baby their first immunization directly from you! Colostrum protects your baby from this new environment full of bacteria and viruses that may otherwise make your baby sick. Breastfeeding within the first hour also helps kick start your hormones telling your body to produce milk for your baby.
Even if there are complications during birth be persistent about your desire to nurse your baby within that first hour of life! Many moms have found ways around even having to be heavily sedated! One mom knew she was going to be given a c-section because of a very high risk pregnancy. She told her husband “no matter what happens make sure to get the baby to the breast”. She ended up needing to be sedated, so her husband and nurse helped her baby latch on and breastfeed while she was still sleeping!! Where there is a will, there is a way!
Do you know about I.V. Fluids and it’s affect on breastfeeding?
There are many reasons a mom may need to get an I.V. in the hospital while going through labor and birth. A couple of examples: a mom may elect to have pain medication like an epidural which require high amounts of I.V. fluids to be pumped into the body to prevent dehydration and maintain a stable blood pressure, a mom is in a high risk pregnancy, or has an illness requiring medication during labor for the safety of mom and baby. If your pregnancy has been a healthy, low risk pregnancy then you likely would not need an I.V. Yet, many hospitals automatically put an I.V. port into your hand at check in for “just in case” reasons, even if you are completely healthy. This policy really opens up the door for easy access of giving you an intervention that you likely just don’t need, such as inducing labor if things are moving a little slow for them.
So what’s the big deal with I.V. fluids and breastfeeding? When the hospital gives you I.V. fluids the amount they give you is not really regulated meaning they can overload your body with fluid. This fluid has to go somewhere in your body and it always chooses to build up in your tissues, including your breast tissue. Unfortunately, it can take awhile for the fluid to move out of your body. This fluid buildup causes your tissues to swell, making your body feel uncomfortable and swollen, causing your breasts to feel uncomfortable and swollen. The extra fluids can cause your nipple to also become swollen and flat making it difficult for your baby to latch on to the breast. Another problem that happens with too much fluid in the breast tissue is it can delay your milk from coming in.
How do you avoid this from happening?
- Find other natural ways to induce labor if things are progressing slowly
- Find other natural ways to cope with labor pain
So what to do if you need an I.V.?
- Tell the hospital you want the least amount of I.V. fluids as possible
- If your nipples are so swollen that your baby can’t latch on try reverse pressure softening. Here is an excellent explanation on How to do REVERSE PRESSURE SOFTENING
Why should I keep my baby with me the entire time I’m in the hospital?
Here are your top 5 reasons:
- Your baby is coming into a completely new and different world. It takes time for babies to acclimate to our way of living. Being with you is the most safe and comfortable place to be for your baby.
- If you keep your baby on your chest skin-to-skin as much as possible, your body will help regulate your baby’s body temperature, heart rate, and breathing just by holding him/her!
- It’s easier to catch those hunger cues.
- Less opportunity for hospital staff to give your baby formula, glucose, water, or a pacifier; which can all interfere with your efforts to breastfeed.
- Gives you and your baby lots and lots of practice breastfeeding!
Keeping your baby with you as much as possible in the hospital helps breastfeeding get off to the best possible start!
How do I keep the hospital from giving formula, glucose, water, or a pacifier to my baby?
Introducing any substance besides breastmilk into the sterile gut of a newborn can cause issues with your efforts to breastfeed. Introducing a nipple other than your own can cause issues with latching your baby onto the breast. The best way to tell the hospital staff you do not want anything other than your breastmilk and your breast given to your baby is to put it in your birth plan. The hospital staff can read through your labor and birth requests and follow them as closely as possible. You have the right to refuse any treatment offered to you or your baby. If they say your baby needs something other than breastmilk make them explain to you why they feel the need to give your baby these different fluids and then you will be able to make a decision on whether you feel it’s best for your baby.
There are times when formula may be needed to help a baby, but this is rare as breastmilk is almost always the better choice over formula, glucose, or water. If your baby can’t get milk from your breast for whatever reason, then the next best option is to pump and express your breastmilk. Offering your baby your breastmilk from other feeding methods like a small medicine cup, spoon, feeding tube, or syringe over a bottle nipple is a better way to get your baby back to the breast when he/she is ready to latch on. If you have to supplement as an alternative option to bottles there is a device called a Supplemental Nursing System (SNS) where a tiny tube is attached to a bottle that hangs from your neck. This allows the baby to get extra milk (ideally your expressed breastmilk or formula) but still latched onto the breast giving you extra stimulation to increase your milk supply and your baby practice nursing at the breast.
Be sure to get help from an IBCLC as soon as possible if troubles arise and the hospital is telling you your baby needs formula, water, or glucose. An IBCLC can help you make a more informed choice and help you with any issues that maybe preventing your little one from receiving your breastmilk.