Friday, May 9, 2008

Breastfeeding & Birth Practices

I have a particular interest in the impact of birth practices on breastfeeding. Birth and breastfeeding are part of a continuum and it often seems forgotten or ignored that routine birth practices can have a significant impact on disrupting the breastfeeding relationship. Disturbed births lead to disturbed breastfeeding. An article I enjoy on this subject is one called "Winning at Birth" by Linda J. Smith, IBCLC (co-author of the book Impact of Birthing Practices on Breastfeeding: Protecting the Mother and Baby Continuum ). In her article, Linda draws a parallel between preparing for an athletic event and preparing for birth (hence the use of the word "winning").

"Winning at birth - what an odd concept. Birth isn’t a contest. Or is it?...Birth is a very physical event, one in which our bodies have to exert themselves, perform. Birthing requires muscle control, determination, and grit. We even urge women to sign up for classes and practice. Women often grunt, groan, and make noise during birth just as athletes do. And because there is risk and a possibility for injury, the athlete is surrounded by skilled attendants."

As one of her tips for "winning at birth," she emphasizes choosing your birth attendant wisely (and I was happy to see she mentioned midwives as an ideal attendant to help you win at birth! Which then helps you "win" at breastfeeding.)

"Hire a skilled birth attendant as your coach. Your professional birth attendant’s attitudes and skill will play a major role in setting the stage for your baby’s birth. A professional midwife is an excellent choice, and many physicians actively support normal birth. Your professional attendant’s attitudes and beliefs about your ability to give birth normally and naturally will color all of her/his decisions and actions on your behalf. A good birth coach instills confidence, skill, and a winning attitude in her/his clients."

Speaking of midwives and breastfeeding, the most recent article from the International Breastfeeding Journal is titled "Assessing midwives' breastfeeding knowledge."

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