Pushing Babies Out & Suckin' From The Teet
Switching things up this week with a fun episode covering everything you wanted (and maybe didn't want) to know about pregnancy and breastfeeding! Be sure to tune in above or over on iTunes and read Danielle's blog post below!
When I emailed the guys at Sickboy to suggest talking about pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding, I was initially a bit hesitant. These things do not make women inherently sick and in my view, require very little intervention under normal circumstances. I did think that it was important to show women, maybe even those who are years from having babies, that their ability to grow, birth and nurture a child is not something to fear.
Sadly, mainstream media and often other parents, choose only to show us the scary side of childbirth. We see/hear of women laid on their backs in a bright hospital room that is crowded with staff, often being coached to push their baby out. This is something that their bodies already know how to do, if we would only let them! We hear the stories of the “emergency” caesarian sections but don’t hear of the cascade of interventions such as labour induction/augmentation, artificial rupture of membranes and epidurals that lead up to the surgery. There is a definitely need for these interventions as they have no doubt saved the lives of many a baby and mother. The c-section rate at the IWK is roughly about 30%, double the World Health Organization’s recommendation of 10-15% and is similar across many hospitals in North America. One of the biggest reasons for this disconnect that I can think of is that most medical staff forget that we are still mammals. Just like any other mammal, the flow of hormones needed for labour to progress will stall when a birthing mother feels observed, fearful and/or under stress. This was a protective measure thousands of years ago when we used to encounter predators in the wild, keeping the baby safe inside the womb until its mother was secure. I can’t tell you how many mamas I know who have started their labours at home, making good progress, only to arrive at the hospital and have their contractions ease up or stop altogether. Even a mama birthing at home may have her labour stall because an older child has woken up through the night or a family member with negative energy is in her presence. If there is one piece of advice I can give to mamas-to-be it is carefully select your birth environment and those who you choose to be present.
You’ve made it through childbirth and your baby is in your arms. Now what? Your baby might be outside your womb but you are still responsible for growing it, with food and love. Most Canadian mothers, roughly 90%, start off exclusively breastfeeding but that number steadily drops to 26% by the time their baby is ready for the addition of solid food at around 6 months of age. Many mamas have the cards stacked against them when it comes to breastfeeding. We’re pretty lucky to have partially-funded maternity leave in Canada but many mothers still have to return to work mere weeks after giving birth. Then there are the western societal expectations put on moms to be “productive”, get out of the house and *cringe* get their pre-baby shape back. Moms need to recover from childbirth, focus on establishing their milk supply and bond with their baby. Yes, I often felt like a dairy cow, feeding my baby for an hour at a time, every other hour but I knew that this would not last forever. There’s the aggressive marketing from formula companies that ensure that most parents of a sample of formula in their cupboards that can often be tempting at 3:00 AM when your newborn is screeching and you’ve been struggling with breastfeeding since their birth. I’m a pretty strong advocate for breastfeeding although I do truly believe that fed (as opposed to breast) is best. Like many other breastfeeding support people, I walk the fine line between trying to assist nursing mothers if they are having challenges and making them feel guilty if they feed anything but breastmilk directly at the breast. It is never my intent to bring shame or guilt upon anyone, let alone a loving mama trying to do the best for her baby. I don’t need to throw a slew of statistics out there but keep in mind that only a very small percentage of mother-baby dyads who want to breastfeed are actually physically unable to do so. The difference between them and the other 74% who aren’t breastfeeding at 6 months has to do with those societal failures and a lack of real support from their community and families.
When I was preparing to welcome my first baby into the world, I spent so much time researching things like the best crib or the best car seat. I spent so little time preparing for my labour and delivery, beyond what to pack in my hospital bag. That was, until I hired a Doula. She told me about what to expect throughout my delivery and postpartum period, many of which were never covered in pre-natal classes or mentioned by my Obstetrician. When I meet with my own Doula clients today, many are unaware of important aspects of their labour and delivery. Alternative comfort measures instead of pain medication, self-directed pushing, delayed cord clamping, antibiotic eye drops immediately after birth for baby; these are just some items that are often skipped by care providers during pre-natal appointments. Since pre-natal classes funded by the Province of Nova Scotia were axed a few years ago, many parents are completely oblivious to their options. So, if there is one thing to put on your baby registry, it’s a Doula. Beyond informing you of your options and helping you navigate the medical system, studies have shown that Doulas decrease the risk of a c-section by 28% and decrease the risk of dissatisfaction with birth by 34%.
You can find more information about Doulas at http://www.dona.org.