Home Birth Facilitates Bonding and Breastfeeding



Bonding between the newborn and mother may be disrupted in hospitals since, in many hospitals, babies are separated from their mothers for at least part of the time. The baby may be whisked away to be cleaned and weighed immediately after delivery, taken away from the mother for vaccinations, or not allowed to sleep in the same room as the mother. An advantage of birthing at home is that the baby can stay with the mother as much as desired.

In hospitals, there are numerous ways that breastfeeding can be compromised. According to So That's What They're For!: The Definitive Breastfeeding Guide [1], “babies born to women who’ve had drugs during their labor may be more sluggish than those born to women who did not have drugs. They also may have sucking problems.”


Additionally, if the baby is not given the opportunity to nurse in the first hour following delivery, breastfeeding may be more difficult. According to Swedish doctor Lennart Righard MD [2], “Immediately after birth we often deny normal newborn activity by taking the baby away from the mother, thus disturbing the baby’s normal searching for the breast. Often the baby is exhausted by interventions in labor… In natural birth without any interventions, sensitivity is much higher. Being laid on the mother’s abdomen… the newborn baby is given warm intimate contact that stimulates the senses, especially touch and smell. This contact helps the alert newborn baby to actively search for the breast, to breastfeed. Breastfeeding in this early stage is made possible by intuition and inborn reflexes, and of course, this sensitive process should not be disturbed by unnecessary interventions.”

The widespread use of pacifiers and bottle-feeding in hospitals may also disrupt breastfeeding. In a study to determine if pacifiers contributed to breastfeeding failure [3], the conclusion was that “to promote successful breastfeeding and to reduce nursing problems… the use of pacifiers should be avoided or restricted.” Mothers are also more likely to feel pressured to try formula or to give up nursing in a hospital, whereas home birth midwives are generally supportive of breastfeeding.

In my own experience, I was able to cuddle and bond with both of my babies right away. They were both born eager to nurse, and it was amazing to see how they instinctively knew how to latch on immediately after delivery. Being at home allows mothers the freedom to bond with their baby during the alert period after birth, to breastfeed as much as desired, and to easily control whether or not their baby is exposed to a pacifier or bottle. 

References

[1] So That's What They're For!: The Definitive Breastfeeding Guide 3rd edition, Janet Tamaro, 2005, p. 61.

[2] “Helping to Maintain Natural Behavior at Birth”, Righard, L., Birth, March 2010, Volume 37, Issue 1, p. 84.

[3] “Breastfeeding and the Use of Pacifiers”, Righard, L. and Alade, M. O., Birth, July 1997, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp. 116–120.

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