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The Effect of Medicated Birth on Breastfeeding


Breastfeeding is a biological process that has stood the test of time. Babies have been nourished and nurtured at the breast since the earliest humans have walked the earth. This system has functioned very well throughout history, yet it seems that in the past one hundred years this system has begun to breakdown. Is it the breastfeeding system that is breaking down? Or is it that we have begun to tamper with something that needs no interference?

Obviously there are multiple factors that play into breastfeeding problems. There are also many different reasons that women choose not to breastfeed. However, there is an increasing number of women who are committed to breastfeeding and face nothing but problem after problem.

As the rate of epidurals, inductions and routine IV's in the hospital goes up and up, we might start seeing many more women facing an uphill battle with nursing. A very common complaint of mothers is that their baby is very sleepy and doesn't want to latch on. This is much more the case in medicated babies (babies that receive labor medications through the placenta). It is difficult to get a sleepy baby to breastfeed. It can sometimes seem like a never ending battle to get these babies on the breast. Wake them up enough to latch on, just to have them fall right back asleep on the breast. If your baby isn't stimulating your nipples by nursing, it is going to take longer for your milk to come in.

Ultrasound has an error factor of plus or minus two weeks. This can be a huge difference when it comes to the maturity of a baby. If an ultrasound miscalculates the due date and a baby is induced to be delivered early, it can have a huge impact on breastfeeding. Nursing a premature baby has it's own set of challenges. Induction in itself can be stressful on mom and baby thus setting up a situation where they are struggling to connect.

As many women are induced with Pitocin, which must be given through an IV, the amount of fluids given to many mothers in labor increases. With a constantly running IV, fluid can accumulate in the mother and baby. This situation can set up several problems. If a mother is edematous (swollen with fluid) her nipples will be harder to latch onto. If a baby is edematous it can lose more than the standard 10% of it's bodyweight, thus giving the doctor the indication that baby isn't nursing enough, setting up for the supplementation cycle, when in reality the baby could be draining off excess fluid.

Birth is a normal body function that need not be tampered with, in most cases. Every extra intervention that you allow to happen to your body is another chance of something going wrong. Be sure that if you are going to have planned birth interventions that you educate yourself as to all the risks involved. Being a mother is a life-long responsibility of making choices. Making the choice of an unmedicated birth can help to assure that breastfeeding isn't thwarted before it has even started.

This is not to say that anyone who gets medical interventions during labor is destined to breastfeeding problems. No matter what type of birth you have, successful breastfeeding can be accomplished. Many birth interventions are absolutely necessary to save mother and baby. Many mothers have mulitple interventions with no breastfeeding problems. Each woman should be allowed informed consent when it comes to her health care. If she isn't aware of a set of risks that are involved with a certain procedure she cannot make an informed decision. Anything that increases the risk of having problems is something that should be carefully considered. Many women are completely unaware that the "routine" epidural, induction, IV etc. that they are receiving could interfere with breastfeeding. I only share this information so that women can research all their options and choose what is best for themselves and their babies.




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DISCLAIMER: This web site is designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on this information as a substitute for medical attention, or diagnosis. If you are having breastfeeding difficulties, please contact an IBCLC near you for assistance. If you have any questions consult your family's health care provider. In some instances, the information represents opinion or judgment. Neither the information providers nor the Site owner guarantee the accuracy or completeness of any information in this website nor will they be responsible for any errors or omissions or for the results obtained from the use of such information. The Site owner and the information providers will not be liable or responsible to any person(s) for any loss or damage caused whatsoever by the use of information or ideas referenced in this web site. Your participation in this service therefore is solely at your own risk.