Avoid Early Breastfeeding Challenges with the ‘3 Golden Hours’
Like most other expecting mothers, you probably want to breastfeed your baby because you’re aware of the many health benefits of your breast milk. And you may also wish to experience the uniquely maternal power of nourishing your baby with your incredible body.
The problem is that, for many women - first time and experienced mothers - breastfeeding isn't always easy. You may also be surprised to learn that this is especially the case for women who give birth in hospitals, whether a natural birth or caesarean section.
In her 50 years of midwifery experience, both in the hospital system and with mothers who chose to give birth at home, Dr Robyn Thompson has observed so many mothers struggling with and suffering through painful nipple damage, breast engorgement, mastitis, and the fear of low milk volume.
Photo: Dr Robyn Thompson helping a young mother breastfeed
If you are expecting a baby and this will be your first time breastfeeding, or you’ve experienced challenges with breastfeeding in the past, take a deep breath…
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way! Keep reading for some suggestions on how to get your breastfeeding journey off to the best possible start…
Introducing the ‘3 Golden Hours’
Dr Robyn’s PhD research has made it abundantly clear that, whether you have your baby at home or in a hospital, having your newborn, with an Apgar Score of 7 or above, skin to skin, uninterrupted within the first few hours after birth is your best possible opportunity to get your breastfeeding journey off to a good start.
The immediate hours after you give birth are important so that you and your baby are given the time and space for the very first breastfeed – Dr Robyn doesn't call them the ‘3 Golden Hours’ for nothing!
The message? Weighing, bathing and/or injecting your newborn baby in those first few golden hours, in the absence of an urgent or emergency situation is not necessary. A healthy mother and her baby, with an Apgar Score of 7 or above, have the right to relax and enjoy those first moments of skin-to-skin contact uninterrupted together. This is what will help the mother’s breastfeeding journey get off to the best possible start and reduce the risk of common breastfeeding complications such as nipple trauma, breast engorgement and mastitis.
In the absence of an urgent or emergency weighing and measuring the newborn baby should wait until after the 3 golden hours.
Why do hospital births sometimes trigger breastfeeding challenges?
As a mother-to-be, you should have all the support you need to start breastfeeding over the first few hours after giving birth to your baby, if that’s what you choose.
Sadly, hospital staff are often stretched too thin by the hospital system’s time constraints to give the first breastfeed top priority – even though that is what you and your baby need most at this time.
Instead, in the interests of saving time (because hospitals are, ultimately, businesses), hospital staff are under great pressure to have you in and out as quickly as possible.
This means that routine hospital procedures – think weighing, bathing, and injections – are administered asap, thereby disrupting the ‘3 Golden Hours’, which will, in turn, have the potential to impact your entire breastfeeding journey.
According to study in 2016, ‘nipple trauma was associated with commonly taught techniques that involved the cross-cradle hold and manoeuvres of the breast, nipple and baby that resulted in nipple malalignment and facio-mandibular asymmetry.
Pic: In Dr Robyn's Research The Cross Cradle Technique is closely associated with nipple trauma
This practice appeared to interfere with the baby’s intra-oral function by restricting movement of the cranio-cervical spine and nuchal ligament. The combination appeared to limit the baby’s instinctive ability to activate neuro-sensory mammalian behaviours to freely locate and effectively draw the nipple and breast tissue without causing trauma. Changes to the first and early breastfeeding techniques are recommended.’
How can you safeguard those ‘3 Golden Hours’?
We know that the hospital system is geared towards time efficiency, so it is essential that you protect the valuable time that benefits you and your baby.
Here are three suggestions to help get you started:
1. First, aim to avoid unnecessary interventions such as induction and acceleration of labour, and epidural or spinal anaesthetics involving the administration of opioids. It’s important to acknowledge that there may be times, for some women, when intervention is necessary. But for most healthy women with no history of complications during their pregnancy, medical intervention is unnecessary.
Photo: Hospital staff administering spinal anaesthetics
2. Secondly, take the time to prepare your birth and breastfeeding plan so that you are in control and those caring for you clearly understand what’s important to you.
3. The third suggestion is to have a strong advocate by your side during and after labour, if at all possible.
Many women report feeling as though they are victims of the system. Having someone you trust beside you, supporting you, with the ability to advocate for you if necessary, provides reassurance for you and reduces the risk of interruption during your ‘3 Golden Hours’.
If possible, have an advocate by your side
Put simply, the hospital system is not designed to accommodate the breastfeeding mother during these early hours.
Dr Robyn encourages all women to know and understand their rights. If you are well and your baby’s Apgar Score is 7 or above, you have the right to be in control, protecting yourself and your baby during the ‘3 Golden Hours’. The professionals caring for you have a duty of care to provide you with uninterrupted time and personal space.
If you’re not sure about something or it doesn’t feel right, you have the right to say ‘no’ or ‘please wait’. Remember, it’s your body and your baby.
You deserve a beautiful breastfeeding experience!
Bottom line? Breastfeeding can be beautiful – it really can.
But breastfeeding can become stressful and often overwhelming when complications occur, particularly in the early postnatal period. You have the opportunity to reduce the risk of common complications by starting preparation before you give birth.
This is where The Thompson Method – the gentle, evidence-based approach to breastfeeding – comes in. Using your pregnancy to gain all the knowledge, tools, and support you need can make a world of difference to your labour and birth experience, your breastfeeding journey, and your entire breastfeeding duration, however long that may be.
Because when your experience of breastfeeding is pain-free and enjoyable, you will have the freedom of choosing how long you want to breastfeed. Because every woman deserves the right to choose how long she breastfeeds her baby.
The Thompson Method online program has helped thousands of women empower themselves and understand their rights within the hospital system, so that they can bond with their babies and achieve whatever breastfeeding goals they set for themselves.
To learn more about The Thompson Method online program, please click here.