Birth and Breastfeeding
"I couldn't breastfeed" is very often met with "it is rare to not be able to breastfeed" and then the war on breast is best is started all over again. Semantics... they'll get you every time. What these perspectives leave out are the reason(s) someone "couldn't" breastfeed, and also that it is rare to not be able to "physically produce milk" - but not producing milk is such a small part of the breastfeeding relationship.
Above all, what is RARELY ever discussed is the importance of the birth experience on the breastfeeding experience. To separate birth and breastfeeding is impossible. They are not two separate events. Breastfeeding IS the final chapter of the birth experience. Without the right setup, who ever succeeds to the point at which they planned? You don't birth a baby in any manner and expect to breastfeed however you wish. The entire way pregnancy and birth are treated in many westernized cultures is completely opposite from biological, and yet we still want mothers to believe that breastfeeding after that will - or should - flow smoothly. "You just need support..." or "You weren't committed..." or "You didn't try hard enough..." or "If you knew..." And while many of these arguments for breastfeeding may be true in some sense, where is the "Was your birth biological?" question?
Can most mothers breastfeed? Sure!
Is it easy? That depends on a lot of things!
Should they be made to misunderstand the importance of the birth experience on the breastfeeding experience? Well, what do you think?
If your birth is changed in any manner, then the rest of the experience is changed. Are you OK with that? That is for YOU to decide - but not linking the two experiences together may cause you a world of hurt and disappointment.
If positions in birth can increase pain - particularly if they are not based on the mom's instincts - and pain decreases oxytocin (the hormone needed for bonding, milk let down, uterine involution, and many other things) - how does this affect breastfeeding?
If positions in birth - especially those that don't include mom being upright or forward leaning - can increase the risks of perineal tears, and perineal tears cause pain postpartum, and pain on the bottom causes more difficulty learning to breastfeed... how does this not change the breastfeeding experience?
If breastfeeding immediately after birth - skin to skin - no talking from anyone present - mom using her instincts - produces the most amount of oxytocin - then what does reducing this hormone do?
If separating the mother at ANY point after the birth reduces oxytocin, reduces newborn temperature, reduces bonding, increases risks for PPH - then how does this change the calm and loving state needed for a good latch?
If mom was treated less than optimal during birth, and her oxytocin decreases, how does this affect her ability to breastfeed?
Are we seeing an oxytocin trend here? And that doesn't cover even 1/2 of what we're doing to birth with induction (the baby not being READY for life this side of the belly), with medications (the baby physically being unable to breastfeed - or being in so much pain after the birth from not recieving beta-endorphins), and any other "modern improvement" for birth.
Breastfeeding was NEVER meant to be this difficult. Birth was never meant to be medical either. Simply going from comfort zone to uncomfort zone CHANGES your birth. Being in a bed vs. moving in labor CHANGES your birth. Suggestions for positions, movements, breathing...etc., (even when they are KIND suggestions), CHANGE your birth. It doesn't matter how you want to look at it, a change is a change - and it simply doesn't stop after the baby arrives... and yet mothers are made to believe that breastfeeding is a separate issue from birth.
You cannot talk about the mom's "ability" to breastfeed and discount how difficult we have MADE breastfeeding for mothers. It is a medical complication to not produce milk - but that has nothing to do with increased PPD because of birth experience. Moms can completely disregard their well-being and feel resentment towards their baby because their anxiety increases every time they nurse - but how does that make a mom understand that our CULTURE has made breastfeeding this difficult... that her birth experience may very well have been the reason for this difficulty.
How can we fault a mother for something our culture has created?
We can't. We have to start as soon as possible to educate EVERYONE about the impact the birth has on everything about their future, and then be there for support when they need it.
Luckily, our bodies were created with COUNTLESS fail safes to allow our species to survive with many things working against us and so breastfeeding CAN succeed when things don't go biological... but, don't you want to make that experience more pleasant?
For more information, grab a copy of The Impact of Birthing Practices on Breastfeeding... you'll be amazed... and saddened... and HOPEFULLY your perspective on breastfeeding and birth advocacy will reach a whole new level.