Birth Experience. Maybe. Cheering Squad. Definitely!

Welcome to The Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival! This post was written as part of The Breastfeeding Cafe's Carnival. For more info on the Breastfeeding Cafe, go to For more info on the Carnival or if you want to participate, contact Claire at clindstrom2 {at} gmail {dot} com. Today's post is about how birth experiences influence breastfeeding. Please read the other blogs in today's carnival listed below and check back for more posts July 18th through the 31st!

I have been thinking about this post a lot for the past day or so. Beyond just my own birth experiences  (which by the way were like night and day and you can read all about them here) to birthing in general and how we put a lot of emphasis on HOW we birth our children and how this affects our breastfeeding relationships.

I won't go into a whole lot of details, but suffice it to day that, YES, there are many factors during childbirth that can hinder the beginnings of breastfeeding. The most common culprits being, medications, induction, use of forceps and vacuum extraction, cesarean section, early separation of mom and newborn, suctioning, bathing,and premature births. But that being said, there are plenty of mothers who have had one or more of the above interventions and then gone on to have very successful breastfeeding relationships. So, is there really a guaranteed way to make sure breastfeeding 'works'?

What if you do everything 'RIGHT' and then breastfeeding still doesn't work for you? My good friend, Shannon, did just that. She had issues with breastfeeding her first two and attributed it to the not so ideal hospital births she had had with them. The birth of her third child was the complete opposite. It was a beautiful home birth,surrounded by her family, her birthing team and her closest friend. She did everything right! A natural water birth, immediate skin to skin contact with her beautiful newborn baby girl, no medications or interventions whatsoever. And then......another unsuccessful go at breastfeeding. Or maybe not... please read all about Shannon's amazing story of perseverance HERE and decide for yourself.

I think it is a mother's duty to be and get informed. About her choices in childbirth and about breastfeeding. And sometimes that stuff is just not in the books. Seek outside advice and help. Hire a doula to be an advocate for you and your birth and your immediate breastfeeding choices.  Attend a La Leche League meeting BEFORE you have a baby and ask the mothers there what they wish they had known about birth and breastfeeding before they had their babies. Learn from the mothers before you.

And do have a plan! With my firstborn, we did not have the option of having a birth plan. It was a high risk pregnancy and we were just prepared for whatever needed to be done for the baby's safety and for mine. That ended up being an induction at 35 weeks and a 3 and a half pound baby who was taken to NICU within minutes of his birth. Breastfeeding that child was not an easy task for a multitude of reasons, but we persevered, eventually got the hang of it and kept it up for three whole years! With my second child I had a PLAN! A full page of typed out requests from my birthing team. It was signed by my doula, my OB and my husband and I and I know for a fact that it was read by every nurse and resident who took care of us that day.

Did everything go according to plan that day? Well, no, not everything. But my wishes were well known by everyone involved. I did not want any medications and I did not want my child to have any interventions (suctioning, bathing, Vitamin K eye gel) before I had a chance to hold and breastfeed her. In the end, I needed some Nitrous Oxide to make it from 8 to 10 cm, and my baby did need some suctioning because there was meconium in the amniotic fluid. They held of on the eye gel and bathing her until much later and I am happy to say that she latched on like a pro, just 40 minutes after she was born!

Mamas,I guess what I am trying to say here is that I truly believe that the key to breastfeeding is support. Not necessarily how or where you birth your child, but who you have to turn to when you need help with breastfeeding. Be it your spouse/partner, your doula, your doctor, your lactation consultant, your LLL leader , generous milk donors or your other mama friends, just please have a support network, your proverbial 'cheering squad' in place. And also know that my "cyber" door is always open if you are struggling and need someone to go to for a sympathetic ear, for resources, for a point in the right direction or for a simple "You CAN do this!"

Because I have been there.


Here are more posts by the Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival participants! Check back because more will be added throughout the day.

What makes a natural birth "natural"?

I read an interesting article in our local paper today and it got me thinking about childbirth and birthing options and what women consider a natural childbirth. I have birthed two children in the past 4 years. And I have always considered my births for both of these little people to be natural. Yet lately, I have come to realize that some might disagree. What constitutes a natural childbirth these days? Is a vaginal birth a natural one even if you have some kind of medical induction or form of pain relief?

My first pregnancy was a complicated one. I developed gestational hypertension (very high blood pressure) at around 26 weeks, was in and out of hospital on bed rest for a few weeks and then put on strict bed rest at home. Because of the hypertension, my son also had intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) and was not a very big baby. We had weekly ultrasounds to chart his growth and at 35 weeks he had stopped growing completely and the decision was made to induce me.

Because of the complications throughout my pregnancy we were prepared for whatever needed to be done during the birth, but my preference had always been for it to be a vaginal birth with minimal interventions. We had hired a doula and were all set for our Monday morning induction.

The method of induction chosen was with a Cervidil (prostaglandin) vaginal insert to ripen my 35 week pregnant cervix. I was told that this could take anywhere from 12-24 hours to take effect and that I could also expect that it may have to be repeated. What actually happened was that within 2 hours I was having mild contractions, within 5 hours I had entered transition (read puking and passed mucous plug) and within 8 hours my water broke, I was fully dilated and I WAS PUSHING! This was all of course VERY much to the surprise of the nursing staff that had refused to believe that I was in "active" labour this whole time and that all of my contractions where 'pre-labor' ones.

My son was born about 5 minutes later, after 3 big pushes and with nary an obstetrician in sight!! Needless to say, within about 3o seconds of his birth we had a full room of about 17 people, including the team from NICU that whisked him away for further assessment after a quick peek and a kiss from mommy. Natural birth? I sure think so.

My second pregnancy was the complete opposite. VERY normal, no issues with my blood pressure at all or any IUGR. I was 41 weeks pregnant when the decision was made with my obstetrician to induce me again. I was extremely uncomfortable (read - big as a house!) and really just wanted to have this baby. We went the Cervidil route again since it worked so well the last time.  I was about 2-3 cm dilated already at this point, so it did not take long for me to be in active labour again. Thankfully, this time everyone believed me! I had a very specific birth plan this time around and did not want ANY interventions. We had our original and might I add, rather amazing doula with us again as well as our back-up doula. I don't think my labour was significantly longer with my daughter, but it was definitely harder. I managed to make it to 8.5 cm on my own, sitting on the birthing ball in the shower with my husband directing the hot water on my back the whole time.

And then I needed some help. And yes, at that point I BEGGED for an epidural and uttered those famous words....

"I can't do this!"

But you know what, I did not get the epidural and I did DO IT! Why? Because I had an amazing birth team that knew what I really wanted and supported me and helped me through that last hump. I did suck back on some nitrous oxide to take the edge off of those last few really tough contractions and 9 hours after my Cervidil induction I was fully dilated and after 20 minutes of pushing, my beautiful baby girl was born. And again I have always considered hers a natural birth too.

What do you think? Did I have "natural birth" experiences? Did you? Is the whole concept of birthing naturally on more of a spectrum or is it very black and white?

I'd love to hear your thoughts....