A recent study showed a high association with breastfeeding and home birth, from initiation to continued breastfeeding. In the conclusion, they state, “…further research is needed to determine which factor(s) drive the observed differences, to facilitate development of perinatal care that supports breast feeding.”
Without conducting further research, I can tell you exactly why home birth mothers are more likely to be successful with breastfeeding.
- Home birth families value natural birth practices and eschew unnecessary interventions, and will tend to perceive more benefits of breastfeeding than someone who does not place higher value on natural choices.
- As well, after having a successful home birth, their feelings of self-efficacy are likely to be high.
- Midwifery care routinely embraces practices such as immediate skin-to-skin contact, observation of the Golden Hour, foregoing routine suctioning, and delayed bathing of the baby. These practices are known to improve breastfeeding success–and practices that are requiring major policy changes to be adopted in the hospital setting.
- There is not easy access to interventions that may negatively impact breastfeeding success, such as induction/augmentation or pharmaceutical pain relief. (Of course, these interventions are accessible when needed via hospital transfer.)
- Midwives provide much more comprehensive postpartum care, and are more supportive and knowledgeable about the normal course of breastfeeding as a whole.
- Hospital staff may not provide sufficient support or even demonstrate a preference for breastfeeding, which can have a profoundly negative impact.
- Home birth families are more likely to have social support for breastfeeding, which is critical in successfully reaching one’s goals.
- Unfortunately, there may also be a socioeconomic factor as well, as home birth mothers tend to be white, educated, and middle-class or higher (the same demographic of women who tend to meet their breastfeeding goals).
Does this mean that every woman who wants to breastfeed for a year or longer should plan a home birth? Of course not. But the stage is set for success much differently at home than it is in the hospital setting.
On a personal note, it was when I did not meet my breastfeeding goals with my first child that I started researching the connection between my birth choices and the sequence of events that led to our breastfeeding difficulties. As I did that research, I realized home birth was the only option (there were no freestanding birth centers in Colorado at that time) where my birth plan would be honored and my labor would be allowed to unfold as I desired. And so, I changed to home birth midwifery care late in my pregnancy with my second son and never looked back. Without understanding the connection between birth and breastfeeding, I might never have become a midwife. As they say, the rest is history.