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Q&A: Epidural and Breastfeeding?

I want to breastfeed but I might have an epidural. Can an epidural affect my baby's ability to nurse?
ByNancy Mohrbacher, IBCLC, FILCA
Lactation Specialist
Updated
March 2, 2017
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The jury is still out on this one. There are a few studies that have shown no association between epidurals and breastfeeding success. In some other studies, women receiving an epidural had fewer successful breastfeeding sessions in the first 24 hours after delivery, were more likely to have babies that were supplemented with formula in the hospital, and were more likely to stop breastfeeding in the six months after delivery.

Does this mean you won’t be able to breastfeed if you opt for an epidural? No way. It just means that it’s extra-important for you to establish breastfeeding in your first days as a mom. Increase your odds by asking to feed baby ASAP after delivery, spending plenty of time skin-to-skin, breastfeeding frequently in the first hours and days of baby’s life, and asking for breastfeeding assistance during your hospital stay. All of these practices are known to help make for an easier, longer-lasting breastfeeding relationship.

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