My wife and I are expecting our first baby, and like all parents-to-be, we're struck by the volume of advice coming our way--some good, some not. So it was nice to learn of two new recommendations we can count on.
Labor is a famously painful thing, and for 30 years epidurals--painkilling spinal injections--have made it easier. But some people are worried that an epidural given too early can slow labor and increase the odds of a caesarean birth. A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine, however, found that women who receive an epidural before their cervix is dilated to 4 cm have no greater chance of a C-section than women who
take the oral pain pill Dilaudid until they reach that point and then switch to the spinal injection. Moreover, their labors were 90 minutes shorter. That sounds encouraging. If my wife is in less pain, so am I.
Once the baby's out, feeding begins, and the American Academy of Pediatrics (A.A.P.) has revised its guidelines on breast feeding to answer some stubborn questions. Among their conclusions: it's O.K. to sleep in the same bed with your baby, to make feeding easier and reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, as long as there is no loose bedding and the mattress is firm--although the risk exists of a parent rolling over and smothering a small child. (We've ordered a bassinet that attaches to the bed.) The A.A.P. suggests feeding babies only breast milk for the first six months and including it in the diet for another six after that. (A formula supplement is still recommended for underweight babies.)
To be sure, nursing for a year is a chore, and mothers who can't go that long should not despair. "If you stop earlier it doesn't mean there aren't any benefits," says A.A.P. spokeswoman Dr. Ruth Lawrence. That's the kind of sound advice any parent can embrace. •
Sanjay Gupta is a neurosurgeon and CNN medical correspondent