When a baby is born, they will show certain patterns of behaviour. If placed in skin-to-skin contact with the mother and left undisturbed, they will start showing signs of looking for the breast. They will display a sequence of behaviours that begins immediately after birth and ends with them attaching to the breast and having their first feed.
Getting breastfeeding off to the best start in this way can help your baby learn how to breastfeed, stimulate your milk supply, and help you and your baby bond and rest after birth. It provides your baby with nutrients, and positively influences their microbiome. A person’s microbiome describes the thousands of species of bacteria which exists peacefully in our body, mainly in our gut. Our microbiome is essential for our health and is influenced by how we are born and how we are fed as babies.
Interventions during labour and birth can have a “ripple” effect; one intervention may lead onto another and a straight forward labour can end up becoming an emergency situation.
As an example, a woman having a straight forward pregnancy could accept her labour being induced and as this can potentially lead to a long, tiring experience, she may happily accept pain relief during labour. She may decide to have an epidural which makes her comfortable, but causes her labour to slow and prevents her from adopting upright positions. Her baby moves into an unfavourable positon in her womb during labour and cannot move down in her pelvis to be born. Her baby then shows signs of becoming distressed as the baby's heart rate drops during a contraction; the doctor decides the safest action would be for the baby to be born by emergency caesarean section.
Pain relief such as the epidural, pethidine and diamorphine travels in your blood stream to your baby’s blood, and as a result can influence how your baby behaves after birth. Pain relief can cause your baby to be sleepy and potentially delay or take away the inborn breastfeeding reflexes baby possesses, and as a result they cannot display the behaviours needed to have their first feed.