Background: Best practice guidelines to promote breastfeeding suggest that (i) mothers hold their babies in naked body contact immediately after birth, (ii) babies remain undisturbed for at least one hour and (iii) breastfeeding assistance be offered during this period. Few studies have closely observed the implementation of these guidelines in practice. We sought to evaluate these practices on suckling achievement within the first hour after birth.
Methods: Observations of seventy-eight mother-baby dyads recorded newborn feeding behaviours, the help received by mothers and birthing room practices each minute, for sixty minutes.
Results: Duration of naked body contact between mothers and their newborn babies varied widely from 1 to 60 minutes, as did commencement of suckling (range = 10 to 60 minutes). Naked maternal-infant body contact immediately after birth, uninterrupted for at least thirty minutes did not predict effective suckling within the first hour of birth. Newborns were four times more likely to sustain deep rhythmical suckling when their chin made contact with their mother's breast as they approached the nipple (OR 3.8; CI 1.03 - 14) and if their mothers had given birth previously (OR 6.7; CI 1.35 - 33). Infants who had any naso-oropharyngeal suctioning administered at birth were six times less likely to suckle effectively (OR .176; CI .04 - .9).
Conclusion: Effective suckling within the first hour of life was associated with a collection of practices including infants positioned so their chin can instinctively nudge the underside of their mother's breast as they approach to grasp the nipple and attach to suckle. The best type of assistance provided in the birthing room that enables newborns to sustain an effective latch was paying attention to newborn feeding behaviours and not administering naso-oropharyngeal suction routinely.