The Best Start to Breastfeeding

According to The World Health Organization and UNICEF, mothers should be helped to initiate breastfeeding within half an hour of birth. Babies are normally in a quiet alert state in the first hours after birth. This is the best time to begin bonding and breast feeding.

Skin to skin contact with his mother triggers the baby’s instinctive rooting and sucking behaviors and increases the mother’s oxytocin, the hormone responsible for bonding, relaxing and milk flow. Studies show that babies who are in early physical contact with their mothers nurse better and for a longer duration.

Often babies who are taken away from their mothers before the first feed will “shut down.” They will fall into a deep sleep and become progressively harder to wake and feed. Even a short separation between mother and baby for weighing and cleaning was found to affect the way the baby breastfeeds.

Interventions during labor may affect a baby’s readiness to breastfeed. Pharmacological pain relief used by the mother during labor enters the baby’s circulation where it can affect his nervous system and his breastfeeding. Use of epidural may lead to other interventions such as forceps, which also affects the newborn’s well being and readiness to breastfeed. A natural, non-medicated labor and birth will best facilitate breastfeeding.

Realistically, our births will not always go as planned. We may end up having a medicated birth even if we didn’t intend to. We may have to be separated from our babies due to medical reasons. Don’t despair. Babies’ breast-seeking instincts remain intact several months after birth. It may require a little more effort to put those instincts to use but it will be worth it for the mother and baby.

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