By Naomi Starsiak

Breastfeeding, what could be more natural? But there is so much more that goes into the process than, “open mouth, insert nipple”. The way we labor and give birth can have a huge impact on early breastfeeding.

Mammals have an instinct to find a quite, dark place to give birth, somewhere safe and away from other people. Humans still have this instinct, yet we give birth in a manner that seems to be the total opposite: bright lights, lots of bustle, and people we don’t know. This setting can cause the release of adrenaline, and in this “tense” state things that are natural become much harder to achieve.

It’s the same with breastfeeding – the instinct is there but it is overwhelmed by the bright lights, bustle, and, oh, so many people telling you what to do. You’re expected to do something you’ve never done before and all that the other half of your breastfeeding team can do is cry! Most people would call that a bad dream but that is essentially what leads up to “baby’s first feeding”.

As if this stress wasn’t enough there are other factors that can make latching on even harder. Between 20% – 70% of women (depending on the hospital you go to) receive pain medicine during labor. This medicine can make you sleepy and lower your appetite – it can also cross the placenta, which means your baby can be born sleepy and with a low appetite. Not helpful when you’re trying to breastfeed!

If you are one of the 40% of local moms who had a C-section there is the “stage fright”, the groggy baby, and now pain from the surgery. See how quickly the factors stack up against “the most natural thing world”?

The good news is there are several things a new mom can do to overcome these factors.
– First, a newborn baby has a very small stomach, so don’t be worried if it seems like your baby is only eating a little at a time, to them it’s a full belly!
– If you’re still in the hospital, you can ask for a Lactation Consultant to visit your room. These women are highly trained in the mechanisms of breastfeeding and can help to get the first few feedings underway.
– For moms that are out of the hospital and feeling overwhelmed, there are several local groups that offer peer support. These are women who have been in the same situation you’re in now and have come out the other side! You can find more information on the Facebook group “Mohawk Valley Breastfeeding Network”.
– There are several Lactation Consultants in the area who will do home visits.
– Hire a post-partum doula, these women come to your home and can offer breastfeeding support and take care of whatever else is needed (doing laundry, making dinner, taking care of other children) so you can focus on learning your new skill.
Naomi Starsiak is a birth and postpartum doula, a natural birth consultant, and the co-owner of A Peaceful Birth doula & childbirth service. You can find her on Facebook at facebook.com/APeacefulBirthDoulas.

Have a question? E-mail it to Naomi at nestarsiak@gmail.com.

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