First of all, no matter what type of birth you end up having - natural, medicated, vaginal, cesarean - you will most likely be able to breastfeed your baby. Even after a difficult or traumatic childbirth, breastfeeding can bring about a wonderful experience of healing and bonding with a newborn, most of the time quickly and effectively. The vast majority - experts say ninety-five percent - of women are physically capable of breastfeeding. That is good news and part of God's design to keep the human race going. That being said, nursing at the breast can be more challenging or delayed in certain circumstances. However, with education and support from other nursing moms, a trained breastfeeding counselor or lactation consultant, breastfeeding will most likely become easier and a natural part of your life as a mother. Breastfeeding is the natural continuation of the cycle that begins with pregnancy and birth.
Two easy ways to increase your chances of having the best birth and early breastfeeding experience as possible are to attend childbirth classes and to read a good childbirth book. Childbirth classes taught independent of hospitals tend to have more information on natural birthing techniques and how to avoid unnecessary interventions. Nursing mother group meetings at your church and breastfeeding support meetings in your community are good places to obtain recommendations for both childbirth books and classes.
Husbands can be great labor coaches. However, many women like having the support of another woman who has given birth herself, such as a friend or mother, in addition to their spouses. There are also labor doulas who have specialized training in supporting and encouraging women in labor. Doulas have been shown in the research evidence to improve mothers’ birth experiences and facilitate un-medicated labors and breastfeeding (The Baby Book, Revised and Updated Edition 2013, p.22-23). A parish nursing mothers group or a childbirth or breastfeeding class is a good place to ask about local doulas.
It is ideal if the mother can avoid IV fluids during labor and birth. Sometimes too much fluid can cause breast engorgement which makes latching more difficult. Also, certain medications can make babies sleepy at birth. Striving for as un-medicated a birth as possible will help ensure an awake baby, ready to breastfeed.
The first hour after birth is a very special time for bonding and getting baby to the breast before he takes his first long nap. Baths and other post-birth activities can wait until after the first nursing. Hold your baby skin to skin as much as possible in the first hour, and continue lots of loving and holding in the early days postpartum. An un-medicated baby placed on his mother's abdomen soon after birth is actually able to crawl towards the breast and latch on without assistance! There are many unseen hormonal bonding elements going on to help baby get off to a good start with breastfeeding - a beautiful design!
If you do need a cesarean, you can still breastfeed your baby! The key is to try different breastfeeding positions that allow you and your baby to nurse successfully and comfortably while staying away from your incision. Some possibilities: sitting upright with a pillow over your lap to protect your incision, the clutch hold (which is described in more detail in the “Latch and Position” section), and the side-lying position (The Baby Book, Revised and Updated Edition 2013, p.191).
Last but not least, writing a birth plan and giving a copy to all birth attendants is another good idea. It is best to let everyone involved in your birth know that you plan to breastfeed and that you do not want your baby to have artificial nipples, bottles, water or formula unless medically necessary. A positive birth experience is always a help to getting breastfeeding off to a good start!