Send to

Choose Destination
J Am Board Fam Pract. 2003 Jan-Feb;16(1):7-13.

Effect of labor epidural anesthesia on breast-feeding of healthy full-term newborns delivered vaginally.

Author information

Department of Family Medicine, University of Wisconsin Medical School, Milwaukee Clinical Campus, St. Luke's Medical Center, Aurora Health Care, Milwaukee, USA.



Epidural anesthesia is commonly administered to laboring women. Some studies have suggested that epidural anesthesia might inhibit breast-feeding. This study explores the association between labor epidural anesthesia and early breast-feeding success.


Standardized records of mother-baby dyads representing 115 consecutive healthy, full-term, breast-feeding newborns delivered vaginally of mothers receiving epidural anesthesia were analyzed and compared with 116 newborns not exposed to maternal epidural anesthesia. Primary outcome was two successful breast-feeding encounters by 24 hours of age, as defined by a LATCH breast-feeding assessment score of 7 or more of 10 and a latch score of 2/2. Means were compared with the Kruskal-Wallis test. Categorical data were compared using the Mantel-Haenszel chi-square test. Stratified analysis of potentially confounding variables was performed using Mantel-Haenszel weighted odd ratios (OR) and chi-square for evaluation of interaction.


Both epidural and nonepidural anesthesia groups were similar except maternal nulliparity was more common in the epidural anesthesia group. Two successful breast-feedings within 24 hours of age were achieved by 69.6% of mother-baby units that had had epidural anesthesia compared with 81.0% of mother-baby units that had not (odds ratio [OR] 0.53, P = .04). These relations remained after stratification (weighted odds ratios in parenthesis) based on maternal age (0.52), parity (0.58), narcotics use in labor (0.49), and first breast-feeding within 1 hour (0.49). Babies of mothers who had had epidural anesthesia were significantly more likely to receive a bottle supplement while hospitalized (OR 2.63; P < .001) despite mothers exposed to epidural anesthesia showing a trend toward being more likely to attempt breast-feeding in the 1 hour (OR 1.66; P = .06). Mothers who had epidural anesthesia and who did not breast-feed within 1 hour were at high risk for having their babies receive bottle supplementation (OR 6.27).


Labor epidural anesthesia had a negative impact on breast-feeding in the first 24 hours of life even though it did not inhibit the percentage of breast-feeding attempts in the first hour. Further studies are needed to elucidate the exact nature of this association.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free full text

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for HighWire
Loading ...
Support Center