Please can we stop putting time limits on mothers and babies??
Something I have become acutely aware of in the last 3+ years is that when it comes to pregnancy, birth, and babies our society is obsessed with time limits.
But pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding are NORMAL bodily functions*. Please tell me another bodily function that has such strict time limits placed on it? Tell me, do you time how oftern you go to the toilet? Do you measure your heart or breathing rate every day?
So why is it so different with pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding? Because we have lost our trust in that area of our biology.
First we have due dates
Do you know the 'modern' calculation of the due date was invented in the 1700's?! And even using dating scans might not be completely accurate due to the skill (or not) of the sonographer. But we accept that there is a range of normal for just about every other bodily process, so is this any different?
If we look at the numbers -
Only 5% of babies will born on the date
50% of babies will be born 40+5
80% by 41 weeks
4% will still be waiting at 42 weeks
I've previously written an article on due dates here
Then once you go into labour more time limits are placed on the mother and baby
This time the rule for how long a mother should be in labour was put in place in 1955. The doctor looked at 500 women and plotted their progress on a scattergraph. The issue is that almost 96% of them were sedated. When his methods were questions he basically said "I am a doctor, don't question me"....and so his rule become law in birthing suites around the world (Reference - Evidence Based Birth on Due Dates).
In 2006 a study that looked at 16000 women was published that found that labours could actually take much longer....yet nothing much has changed....
Its not a straight path down through the pelvis and birth path (aka vagina) - so it makes sense that it can take some time for babies to navigate the many twists and turns, not to mention that if the mother doesn't feel safe her body may work to actually keep the baby in (read an article on the role of oxytocin and adrenaline in labour here). Yet, we make everyone fit into the box that was invented almost 70 years ago....
Now of course I'm not saying that if there are concerns we shouldn't intervene - that is the beauty of living in the 21st Century. What I am saying is that if there are no concerns then lets not intervene just because a timer has gone off....
Lastly we have breastfeeding
Scheduled feedings were introduced in the first half of the 1900's and it just about wiped out breastfeeding altogether. This is why the WHO and UNICEF introduced "The 10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding" - one step is to allow the baby unrestricted access to the breast.
Our babies are small, with small stomachs. They have also been used to 9 months of 24 hour 'womb service' via the placenta. It stands to reason that they will want to be fed frequently. So often I hear new parents say 'but he wants to feed every 2 hours, but the nurses/midwives in the hospital said to feed him 3 hourly' - feed your baby when they are hungry, not when the clock tells you it is time to do it.
Your baby has no idea what an hour is, only that they are hungry
And for those who say that feeding on demand, or responding to every cry, is going to 'spoil' the baby - you are just plain wrong! There are numerous studies out there that show that responding to your baby actually gives them confidence and makes them more independent in future (Google 'Why Africa babies don't cry' ;) ).
Pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding are biological processes - please don't place unnecessary time limits on them!
Antenatal and postnatal midwifery care packages are available - in home appointments, with Medicare rebates available. Lactation consultant appointments are also available, as well as free and low cost group sessions. Contact me for more information - 0405427998
(*and just like any other bodily functions things can deviate from normal - your kidneys can stop working, you can get high blood pressure, your immune system can start attacking the wrong cells....all female mammals, at the very basis of their biology, are designed to house, birth, and feed the young of the species. Humans are no different.)