Posted by: Admin | April 12, 2011

What does breastfeeding mean to you? Part 6

Labour, delivery and breastfeeding

I breastfed my last-born child until she was 4 years old. I remember her older sister, 21 years old at the time of her sister’s birth, asking me how long I planned to breastfeed her. “As long as I can” was my answer! As she was raised in a household where the phone was constantly ringing as other mothers called to ask her mother for help about breastfeeding, I do not think my daughter wondered about the benefits of breastfeeding.

I was still breastfeeding when she got pregnant at 24 years old, gave birth and did not succeed in breastfeeding her baby past the very first few weeks. She had expected to breastfeed and she wanted to, but she encountered difficulties that were too challenging for her to overcome. As a mother, my heart went out to her. I was there for her, and hope she was content with the kind of motherly love I provided during that difficult time. As a Lactation Consultant, I showed empathy and made an intervention plan to help her get through the difficulties.

Like many mothers, she encountered pain while breastfeeding. Her baby was not latching on well. This is a frequent problem. In fact, it is the second most important reason that mothers stop breastfeeding. As a Lactation Consultant, I know that the problem is short-lived, but mothers get easily discouraged in early postpartum because they cannot foresee that it will get better. They are in a critical period and it is impossible for them to project themselves into a future where the difficulty will have been solved.

Babies are born to breastfeed, but they are not made to be born out of a medicated labour. Some of the medication used during the epidural renders the newborns a little sleepy. It changes their core behaviour and, in many cases, changes their sucking pattern just enough to make latch-on painful and ineffective. Mothers have difficulties breastfeeding because of the pain and babies have trouble gaining weight because they cannot get enough milk.

The act of latching-on and sucking is pure instinct in babies. It is an effortless act. It is a reflex. But the newborn needs to be completely “awake” for that reflex to fully work. He reacts exactly like we do to pain medication. On codeine, we lose some of our reflexes. This is why it is not recommended to drive while taking pain medication. It is exactly the same for a newborn, except in his case, he does not need to drive! What he needs to do is even more important: he needs his sucking reflex to survive and thrive. The baby’s sucking mechanism is a reflex, but it is also a very complex coordinated set of movements. Here is a pretty good simulation of what a baby needs to do:

My daughter tried to give birth naturally, but she found it too painful. As an outside observer, I could see she was like most young mothers I have met: courageous but unprepared for giving birth. The promotion of breastfeeding is tightly linked with prenatal care and preparation for labour and delivery. As the mother-daughter transmission of this act has been compromised by the medical world, mothers-to-be need prenatal classes to better prepare and inform them! Mothers also find that a follow-up with midwives can be very helpful during their labour and delivery, and that the presence of a doula during labour and birth helps them deal with the challenges better. Eeyou Itschee women want to be better prepared to bring their children into the world. While we wait for midwives to be able to work on our territory, let’s offer our mothers-to-be prenatal classes that will prepare them for the labour, the birth and the breastfeeding of their children.



  1. Thank you for sharing your story !

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: