Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Breastfeeding and Bonding Immediately After Birth

This was David's pick for the next topic.

He has a coworker whose wife had a baby recently. She had a vaginal birth followed by a six hour separation from her baby. David did not get the impression that anything was wrong with the baby -- it was just for routine testing. They told the parents that they needed to get the baby's body temperature up and the baby was in a warmer. By the time she actually got to hold her baby, the baby was very sleepy and breastfeeding was very difficult. This new mom breastfed her baby for a total of two weeks.

Anyone who has ever given birth and immediately held her baby to breastfeed will tell you that the first couple of hours are golden. The baby is alert and looking into mom's face. A new baby can see about 12 inches away, which is about the distance from the breast to his mother's face. Babies are typically quiet, awake, and incredible suckers! Most babies come out ready to suck. It's an amazing reflex. Most babies will even latch on and suck hard. All four of my babies did this.

After a couple of hours, the baby will fall into a deep sleep, usually for many hours. They are exhausted too! Mom usually gets cleaned up, eats, and especially if she's given birth without medication, wants to hold her prize again! Baby will remember breastfeeding for the first 2 hours of his life and will not struggle like a baby who did not have this opportunity right after birth. Mom's body quickly got the message that it was time to make colostrum for this new baby if she spent the first couple of hours after the birth breastfeeding. It is good for mom, physically, too, as it causes the uterus to contract to expel the placenta, helps shrink the placental site, and helps control bleeding.

As for the warmth of the baby... Baby has been very warm it's entire life -- 98.6 degrees to be exact! It enters a 70 degree room, and yes, it's important that the baby is kept warm. What is the first thing that anyone is told to do if they are worried about developing hypothermia? Get naked and have skin to skin contact with blankets covering you. So why do hospital nurseries like to take a baby, put her in a plastic box, and warm her up artificially? It is well researched, studied and documented -- place a baby skin to skin with her mother, cover them both with blankets (or at least the baby), and place a hat on the baby's head, as we know that most of our body heat escapes through our heads.

When a new mom is "allowed" this time -- she should demand it --does she feel this deep instant connection with her baby? Maybe, maybe not. She may not realize it for months how significant those first moments and hours were in her relationship with her child. The oxytocin (aka: love hormones) levels in the mom and baby are the highest they will ever be their lifetime right after birth. In the animal kingdom, many animals, including monkeys, will reject their baby if they are separated for hours after the birth. Babies must not be taken from their mothers after birth!

Mothers will often talk of being tired after the birth (duh), and besides, they will have the baby forever, so why not have one night of good sleep and let the nursery keep the baby? First of all, you will not have a good night's sleep, as nurses will come in very often to check all kinds of things on you! With my first baby, I remember waking to a nurse drawing blood out of my arm in the middle of the night. I have no idea why. Second, who is holding your baby when he's not sleeping? Sure, you might have requested them to bring him to you to feed, but if he's not sleeping or nursing, is he crying in his designated plastic box? This is a sad start to a new little life.

Think about your new baby for a moment. He has never felt hunger before birth, he has never been away from your heartbeat, your voice, your walk, your laugh. He has never had all this space around him. Why do you think so many babies like to be swaddled? He has never felt cold or hot. He has likely (88% chance) never had to push poop out. A sling is most helpful with a baby's new adjustment. I have never put a baby in a sling who didn't like it. The user must be confident in using it in order to have a comfortable baby. Again, happy and confident mom -- you'll have a happy and confident (in his caregivers) baby. (I am doing a sling order this Thursday if you would like to order one.)

No baby wants to be away from his mother. Nor should he be allowed to be apart from her. Hospitals should be encouraging mothers and educating them on the benefits to the entire family to keeping the baby with them at all times during their hospital stay. No testing, footprints, weighing or measuring, vaccination, eye drops or Vitamin K -- nothing should interrupt those first few hours of bonding. Your relationship with your baby depends on it. Your breastfeeding relationship depends on it.

I am fully aware that I did not address c-sections or babies with immediate problems and the affects those things have on the breastfeeding/bonding relationship. Another day...


meridith said...

I have to say that breastfeeding, especially after birth, is just about the most amazing thing. So hard to put into words the feeling that you have as you bond with the baby you carried and know that you are giving your baby the best nutrition. After Austin was born, I had some complications and was not able to nurse right away until I stabilized. Pretty scary, but it was 15 hours til I held Austin and nursed him. With lots of help from lactation nurses, we worked through hurdles and got it going!

Kate's mommy said...

And, even in most 'typical' c-section scenarios (i.e. no dangerous complications for mommy or baby), the dr's can still let a c-section momma nurse.

I know I did - I don't remember it well, & it wasn't the prettiest or the way I had planned it, but it did occur within her first 30 minutes of life on the outside. I can't imagine how hard it would have been if I couldn't have done it right then and there - it was hard enough to bond/nurse anyways after the c-section!

Why do some drs/nurses/lactation consultants/and yes, even midwives, make it harder for this bonding process to occur? Isn't it in all of mankind's interest that the world is full of secure and content children that will grow up into secure & confident adults?!

Whew - I'm off my soapbox. Sorry, Donna! :)

Christina Pond said...

This is why I want a homebirth for my next baby!!! I want to enjoy that moment at birth more... silent and peaceful...

In the hospital it was so crazy, people everywhere, doing their thing, and you just pushed out a baby, and nurses are punching your uterus, you are exhausted, and it is hard to fight for yourself when you are in that state...

It is hard to say, BACK OFF AND GIVE ME MY BABY!!!

But I did love putting Chaylie in my arms and nursing her after all that hard work. It was a beautiful reward to a long wait of longing to see and feel her!

Breastfeeding is the most amazing thing... women who choose not to, are truly missing out on a very rewarding and unique relationship!

Monica said...

Reading this reminded me of the moments after my homebirth and it is the most special and magical time with your baby. It made me tear up thinking about it!

Donna Ryan said...
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Donna Ryan said...

I enjoyed your comments. I was thinking -- if you are a nurse, doctor, or midwife, all working in hospital, you show up, attend birth, and have other things to move on to. Other patients are waiting. Your work is done. "I don't really have time to sit around and wait for you to "bond" with your baby. This is my job, just like a banker or attorney."

You, on the other hand, have waited your entire life for this moment. You will never have it again. Do not let anyone steal this from you! Remind those in the room when you give birth of the importance of these moments. They need to be reminded. This is not just a job -- it is new life and needs to be valued, treasured, and nurtured.

Summer said...

I barely got to touch my baby before she was whisked away for all kinds of testing. She had a very low apgar so I don't question the need. However, it was VERY difficult to start breastfeeding. It took a couple of days before she would latch on with the help of a breast shield. (plus the nurses in NICU gave her a pacifier. She also had an IV and a feeding tube that the nurses put my pumped milk down. No wonder she wasn't interested in breastfeeding!) If you can breastfeed right away -DO IT!