Birthing Practices That Encourage Breastfeeding

Birthing Practices That Encourage Breastfeeding

31 Jul 2016 | 5 min Read

Ruth Malik

Author | 11 Articles

Breastfeeding is integral for securing a healthy and happy future for your baby. Birthing practices that help establish breastfeeding aim to ensure that both mother and infant are comfortable, alert, awake and receptive to initiate breastfeeding immediately after birth, the longer it is delayed the more difficult it becomes and it can get even more complicated if babies are given formula as their first feed. 


The following practices have a huge impact on a parent’s ability to breastfeed. The World Health Organisation supports these practices.
So take time to find health care providers for birth and neonatal care who can guide you well: 

  • Encourage mothers to find people with a positive and encouraging attitude towards breastfeeding as part of their birth support team. This includes, midwifes, doulas, lactation consultants and other healthcare providers as required.
  • Place babies directly on the mother’s abdomen or chest as soon as they are born
  • Ensures continuous skin-to-skin contact immediately from birth and until after the first feed
  • Delays cord cutting, with the cord left attached to the placenta until it stops pulsating.
  • The placenta is left to birth naturally, this can take up to one hour.
  • Delays bathing of the baby, leaving the vernix (cheese like substance on the baby) intact, at least until after the first feed. 
  • Delays all routine procedures for the baby until after the first breastfeed. If needed, staff can  make initial checks while baby is with the mother. 
  • Initiates breastfeeding within the first hour after birth.
  • Ensures adequate pain management, as mothers in pain find breastfeeding more challenging. 
  • Encourages mothers to get enough sleep and sleep when her baby sleeps
  • Ensures that mothers stay adequately hydrated 
  • Eat plenty of micro nutrients (fruit and vegetables) and macronutrients (protein).

Routine hospital procedures all negatively impact breastfeeding. So all moms-to-be should take note of the following things before choosing the hospital and healthcare provider for their childbirth.

  • Only allow usage of ultra-low dose epidurals as epidurals and other pain medications given to a labouring mother can affect the feeding reflexes of the infant. 
  • Caesarean births are associated with delayed mature milk, which can contribute to excess weight loss in the infant and the need for supplementation. Find a doctor who follows mother-baby friendly caesareans sections, for example placing babies on the mother’s abdomen right after birth and immediately initiating breastfeeding.
  • Don’t go for induced labor, wait up to 42 weeks for labor to start naturally. 
  • Allow nature to follow its own sweet time, don’t augment or speed up labor.
  • Go for Episiotomies only when absolutely necessary as they can cause a lot of pain and discomfort.
  • Don’t go for hospitals that encourage separation of parents and infants after childbirth and don’t encourage hospital procedures that interfere with early skin-to-skin contact with your baby.
  • Be aware that doctors, nurses and pediatricians are not adequately taught about breastfeeding. Contact a lactation consultant if you need professional help and guidance.

Giving birth in hospitals that don’t allow such practices or behaviour mentioned above could be extremely unsafe both for mother and baby.


Other useful tips. Before you give birth 

Find women who breastfeed and learn and listen from them. Breastfeeding is not natural, it requires some learning, and without the right advice can be quite challenging.Join a mothers’ community or breastfeeding support groups which offer the right support by way of experiences or expertise.

Be sure that your birth support team including your family, friends and health care providers are educated and ready to support you to breastfeed. 

Avoid people who are not confident  or supportive of breastfeeding. 

Learn about babywearing, it helps in nursing significantly.

Read about the womanly art of breastfeeding. 

Some doctors will agree to the above procedures, however they may not be experienced and may find excuses not to follow them at the time of birth, speak with atleast three mothers who have birthed with this doctor.

The vast majority of women can breastfeed naturally, but a very small proportion do suffer from physical problems that prevents their ability to breastfeed. Unfortunately, because our health care professionals are not adequately qualified, women do not receive the right support and thus too many are told that they are unable to breastfeed. Find a lactation consultant or breastfeeding counsellor who can give you the right support. 

The World health Organisation recommends exclusive breastfeeding (nothing else is given to the baby including water and vitamins), from birth to about 6 months of age. At 6 months, appropriate foods are introduced and Breastfeeding is continued until age 2 or beyond, or when the baby decides to self-wean. 


Explore the entire collection of articles: Breastfeeding Tips

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