Q: Do epidurals for labor pain affect the baby?
A: "The benefits of epidurals outweigh the risks," says researcher Siranda Torvaldsen, Ph.D., of the University of Sydney, "and it's important that women feel supported in whatever decision they make." However, one risk to infants has recently emerged: Anecdotal reports had indicated that epidurals leave babies with a reduced ability to suckle in the first week of life; Torvaldsen's research found that epidurals were indeed linked to short-term problems with breastfeeding. And supplementing with formula, as many women do when the first days of nursing are problematic, may lead to additional trouble establishing breastfeeding. "The majority of mothers who have epidurals will probably not have breastfeeding problems," Torvaldsen says. For those who do, she recommends getting advice from a lactation consultant.