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How Does Birth Impact How I Feed My Baby? Best Tips from Lactation Professionals

“Does our birth experience impact our breastfeeding?” Regardless of how your baby was born, lactation consultants can help you establish the breastfeeding relationship you want.

We asked our members to share some tips  and strategies with families.

“How you feel about your birth experience can impact your breastfeeding relationship. The method of birth can present some challenges (Caesarean stitches will need to be worked around) but these do not compare to a parent who has felt that they were a passenger in their own medical care. It can be hard to connect when you’re experiencing these emotions. The good news is that these do not make breastfeeding impossible! If you have questions, help exists. Your goals matter and you deserve to be heard—especially with your breastfeeding journey!” -Tori LaChapelle Sproat

“Absolutely! Our birth experience can have drastic implications on our breastfeeding journey. The most important thing is to advocate for your baby and yourself. Do you need access to a breast pump? Ask for one. Do skin-to-skin as much as possible. Ask for help if you need it or just aren’t sure if things are going well. I also feel it is important to talk about your experience. What happened during your delivery? Find someone you can talk to. Maybe even journal your experience. It is so important to work through the emotions surrounding the memories of our birth experiences, good or bad. Breastfeeding can help you heal if you didn’t get the birth you desired. It provides you and your baby with a beautiful bonding experience that simply cannot be replicated.” -Jennifer Passwaters, IBCLC

“As a midwife, I often get questions about the benefits of delayed cord clamping. The evidence tells us that allowing the cord to pulse naturally gives the baby iron stores that can offset the risk of iron deficiencies in infancy.” – Sarah Davis, LM, IBCLC

“Pretty much all babies are born to breastfeed, no matter how they choose to be born! In my area, all hospitals deposit babies directly onto the parent’s chest immediately after birth. This facilitates early breastfeeding and bonding, even after a c-section. I think it’s important to know that having lots of IV fluids can impact breastfeeding in a few ways.First, it can make babies “extra juicy.” Babies may be born at up to 6% heavier than their expected birth weight, which they lose really rapidly in their first 48 hours. It can look like they are losing a dangerous amount of weight! So it’s important to evaluate in the context of whether baby is eating, peeing, and pooping well. Second, extra IV fluids may cause extra swelling in the feet, legs, hands—and breasts! Swelling, or edema, can make nipples appear flat and can make breasts very hard and uncomfortable. A shortcut is to use a nipple shield, which can be very helpful. But, there are manual tricks for moving fluid out of the breast which is way better for the parent and baby in the long run.

I think it’s very helpful to know that a very prolonged labor can cause a delay in mature milk “coming in” by a day or two, and a c-section can also delay milk coming in by a day or two. In this case, consult with an IBCLC on how to manage feeding the baby while waiting for the milk to come in. Keeping the baby wrapped next to your skin, with his bare face on your bare chest, as much as possible, may be the single most useful thing you can do to help your milk come in and help your baby learn to breastfeed. And most of all, ask for help from an IBCLC in the hospital, from your midwife, or from a community-based IBCLC!” – Betsy Hoffmeister, IBCLC

Find an IBCLC to help with your questions about lactation and employment or your other breastfeeding questions.

Find an IBCLC

What is an IBCLC?

An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant® (IBCLC) is a healthcare professional specializing in the clinical management of breastfeeding and lactation.

An IBCLC is an invaluable asset to breastfeeding families, reassuring you when lactation are going well, and by providing information and support to help prevent and manage common concerns. IBCLCs help with:

  • Prenatal counseling about the factors that may affect breastfeeding, chestfeeding, and lactation
  • Basic position and latch of the infant
  • Information about practices that promote successful lactation
  • Preventing and managing common concerns such as poor latch, inadequate milk transfer or supply, nipple or breast/chest pain, and calming a fussy baby
  • Milk expression and storage for parents who must be separated from their babies
  • Strategies for lactation after returning to work
  • Breastfeeding and lactation in challenging situations, such as feeding twins or triplets, a premature or sick infant, or infants in special medical situations.

Lactation consultants, do you have other tips to share?

Families, do you have questions? Share them here!

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