Women that have epidurals are less likely to breastfeed

Women that have epidurals are much more likely to stop breastfeeding before six months. Epidurals ‘hamper breastfeeding’:

Three-quarters of those who had no analgesia were breastfeeding at 24 weeks, compared with 53% who received pethidine or epidurals.

The epidural is also tied to trouble breastfeeding in the first week.  They don’t know why, but one theory is that the epidurals make the babies more sleepy and it’s harder to breastfeed them.

I had an epidural against my wishes. (Well, the epidural wasn’t against my wishes – being tied to the bed was.  Once I wasn’t allowed to get out of bed, sit up or turnover, I gave in to an epidural.)  And I quit breastfeeding after a month – a very hard decision.

One Reply to “Women that have epidurals are less likely to breastfeed”

  1. I’m sure there are many things that contribute to cessation of breastfeeding. An epidural makes something that is already a challenge, even more of a challenge, but I don’t think that factor alone is to blame. I think support and exclusivity (not supplementing) encourage breastfeeding. I have had three babies – all three cesarian (I couldn’t tell from the article if they were distinguishing between epidurals and spinals, but I know they use fentanyl in both) my first was an epidural and the second and third were spinals. I can say in my case, each of the babies was definitely drowsy…affecting their latch (not to mention the difficulty of finding a position to latch after a c-section).
    That said, I did nurse each of them 13 1/2 months (basically I stopped nursing 6 weeks after getting pregnant with the next baby). One of the things I have done each time is have a lactation consultant work with me each day before leaving the hospital to make sure the latch was right. I also breastfed exclusively – no supplementing with bottle (either formula or expressed milk for the first 6 months – actually I never supplemented bottles, but once solids are introduced, there is some diet supplementing going on).
    Granted, in some ways that makes things more difficult for mom, such as not being able to leave the baby for periods of time…but it also doesn’t interfere with milk production. And when you’re used to nursing all the time, it becomes a no-brainer to nurse in public etc). In addition, I can’t tell you how many women I know who started supplementing, then began worrying about how much milk they were producing because they couldn’t measure the baby’s intake. (Not to mention, the additional work that is needed to keep milk production up when you supplement).
    Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think breastfeeding is a breeze. My advise to all new mothers who want to breastfeed: 1. Make sure you have the lactation consultant (at the hospital) come in at least a couple times a day to make sure you’re getting them latched on; 2. Consider the first month home “camp baby” – basically your responsibility is recovering and getting to know the baby (you need to accept help with your other responsibilities during that time); 3. Know that while the first weeks can seem OVERWHELMING…there is a drastic improvement (especially sleep) around 2 months of age; hormones have leveled off, baby isn’t nursing what seems like constantly, and you know each other better. And the last piece of advice is to find a group of new moms that you can meet with regularly. It is a HUGE help to float concerns about being a new mom with other new moms (and seasoned moms with new babies).

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