A typical hospital birth in the western world is overmedicalized – to the point where there’s almost a belief a woman’s body cannot perform this most natural of things without assistance. We know in the rest of the mammalian kingdom that if birth is interfered with there is a great likelihood of the baby dying (usually by rejection of the mother and not suckling). Could this actually be happening right before our own eyes with human babies and modern medicine? Of course most mothers don’t “reject” their babies, but interventions affects a baby’s ability to latch and suckle effectively; rob mothers and babies of the critical minutes and hours immediately following birth where hormones are at their peak and establishment of a lifelong bond is beginning (could this time be even more important for teen moms, unplanned pregnancies, etc.?); and negatively impact a mother’s milk supply.
There are many simple things that can be done to improve birthing practices and allow new moms and babies every opportunity possible to succeed at breastfeeding. The following list includes important points to consider in preparing for your birth:
- Plan for a natural birth. Read books, decide what you want to have happen, write out a birth plan, and discuss it with your doctor or midwife.
- Select a doctor & hospital that is supportive. The current c-section rate in America today is 1 in 3! That’s saying that 1/3 of all women’s bodies are incapable to do what they were created to do without medical intervention. Instead, it is much more likely to be the other way around – when you get involved in a natural process problems occur which lead to more problems and interventions…a slippery slope for sure. Doctors with low c-section rates, midwives, and birthing locations with Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative status are all better options.
- Plan for baby to be given to mom immediately following delivery – postponing all newborn procedures on a healthy baby until after the first few hours following birth (or allow procedures to be done while in skin-to-skin with mother).
- Don’t wash the baby – babies use their sense of smell to find the nipple and moms are drawn to their babies with hormones of love and bonding through smell and touch. There is no need to scrub a newborn down before cuddling and spending precious hours in skin-to-skin care. In fact, consider waiting a couple days before giving your baby her first bath.
- Dim the lights – bright lights are harsh on a new baby’s eyes. If you have to have bright lights on, shield baby’s eyes.
- Allow skin–to-skin time to continue through first breastfeed– and then as much as possible in the first few days following birth. Skin-to-skin is the single most important thing to help breastfeeding success.
- Delay cord clamping – this is oxygen rich blood that your baby needs. Wait until the cord has finished pulsating – or, even better, wait to cut the cord until the placenta has been delivered.
- Have a Plan B in place – though you plan and prepare for a natural birth, sometimes things don’t go as planned. For example, if you need an emergency c-section, who could hold your baby in immediate skin-to-skin following birth until mother is able? Does your hospital have a policy of oral suctioning if your baby passes meconium in labor? Could you sign paperwork in advance to prepare for this scenario or others that might occur so you can still have your birth wishes fulfilled?
- Less is more – Less intervention means a more natural birth. This is the goal. A woman’s body knows what to do if she is not stressed, under time constraints, in a strange or harsh place, etc. Sure, there are times when medical intervention is necessary. But birth is natural, normal. Plan, prepare, and expect a natural birth.
- Relax and don’t stress – plan and prepare and do all that is in your power to have a natural birth. Then relax and enjoy the thought of the day you will get to meet your new little blessing! Birth is not something to fear; rather it’s an exciting time where your body is doing what it needs to in order to birth a new life. Trust your body; remember you’ve done all you can to prepare; relax and enjoy the experience of birth.