Monday, December 17, 2012

Ingredients for Breastfeeding Made Simple: Natural Birth & Supportive Birthing Environment

video
This last weekend I was working as a doula for a mom who gave birth in Al Seef Hospital. The mom was as courageous and strong as any mom that I've seen give birth: throughout her 30 hour labor she respectfully but firmly refused syntocin to speed up her labor, pain medication, or any other substance that would interfere with the natural process of her birth. I admire her determination to give herself and her baby the safest and healthiest start.

If you watch the video above (its the same one we showed at our BirthKuwait workshop on breastfeeding last night), you will see that mothers who are able to labor and birth without any pain medication and are given at least 1 hour of undisturbed time to bond immediately after birth, have a much easier time initiating breastfeeding with their babies. In fact, the mother hardly has to do anything as the baby naturally crawls up to the breast and begins to suckle instinctively. Babies born to mothers given pain medication during labor have a harder time initiating breastfeeding, act disoriented, and are less alert and mobile. This doesn't mean they won't be able to breastfeed later, it just takes more work for both mom and baby.

Back to this birth I was at recently. I anticipated that after a drug-free birth, this mom and baby would have a relatively easy time initiating breastfeeding. After her baby was born, however, she was only allowed around 10 minutes with her baby (not nearly enough time to initiate breastfeeding) and was told repeatedly that it was hospital policy that her baby (a healthy baby with stellar apgar scores) be brought to the nursery to be put under observation for two hours. The WHO and the IMBCI both recommend that mothers and babies should be kept together and there should be no routine separation of the pair for optimal mother and baby health and breastfeeding success. After a very positive experience during labor at Al Seef, I was very disappointed with their newborn policies designed to undermine breastfeeding success (including feeding the baby formula in the nursery right before bringing her to the mother to be breastfed). These kinds of policies bely the true belief system of a hospital who might pay lip service to supporting breastfeeding, but continues to practice in a way that puts up barriers to breastfeeding success.

I guess the purpose of this post is to remind mothers that WHERE you give birth is just as important as HOW you give birth if you want to do your best to provide your baby with a healthy and safe start to life. Be sure to talk about these types of policies with your doctor before you give birth and as part of the discussion surrounding where you deliver. If you want policies and practices to change and move into alignment with international standards of safety and practice, let your care provider and the hospital administration know: write letters, schedule meetings etc. Things won't change until mother's here in Kuwait demand for change.

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