Expert Advice

Suctioning Meconium Immediately – Who Needs It?

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Suctioning meconium immediately on the perineum is increasingly coming under fire as useless, disruptive, and outdated.

It’s your choice to state in your birth plan if you don’t want routine suctioning to be your babe’s first experience, unless it’s truly necessary. And research shows it almost never is.

Meconium is that dark green stuff that’s the first feces of a newborn. Your baby can breathe it in (meconium aspiration) while in utero, usually in response to fetal distress. MAS (meconium aspiration syndrome) can cause newborn infection and airway blockage due to inflammation. It’s a serious event that requires special care, but most infants recover from it without any long-term complications.

Suctioning Meconium Immediately – Who Needs It? - Best Ever Baby - besteverbaby - birth plan

Research now shows that most infants with MAS inhaled the meconium in utero[i].

Because of this, the meconium is far down the airway, beyond the reach of an aspirator. That’s what the controversy is about.

Babies born either naturally or by C-section, with clear amniotic fluid, have no need for suctioning[ii]. In fact, unnecessary suctioning can cause a slow heart rate, temporary cessation of breathing, and a delay in achieving the proper oxygen saturation.

If baby is crying — even if they were born with meconium-stained amniotic fluid — leave well enough alone. Recent research[iii] shows that jamming a long tube down a teeny airway does not prevent MAS, even in infants who are depressed and not vigorously crying.

What it does do is traumatize your almost-one-minute-old infant when they could be snuggling with you instead, building up their oxygen by being warm, relaxing against your skin, and breathing calmly.

Your birth plan can state that you refuse this procedure because research shows it doesn’t help.

Many of today’s new mothers value a peaceful birth experience for their child. Having a rubber thing stuck in baby’s mouth even before the rest of their body is born isn’t very peaceful. And, it’s unnecessary because it doesn’t prevent or resolve MAS[iv].

If your birth plan states that you don’t want baby to be suctioned, you have taken a step toward helping your infant transition more peacefully from its old inside world to its new outside one.

And what better purpose for a birth plan is there? Make sure your hospital bag contains everything you need, including a copy of that clearly-stated birth plan.





To learn more about birthing practices, download our free Birth Plan eBook now. After three years of research, collaboration with more than 100 childbirth experts and resource centers from Healthy Child Healthy World to the American Association of Neonatal Nurses, the Best Ever Baby Birth Plan Guide is available for a free download.

This new resource for pregnant families is a compilation of top tips and advice from more than 20 nationally-recognized experts in the field including renowned pediatrician, Dr. Alan Greene and GraceFull Birthing founder, midwife Elizabeth Bachner. These trusted experts offer thoughtful guidance for whatever type of birthing experience parents want, in whichever setting they choose.

Published: September 30, 2017 | By SP Turgon, Certified Labor Doula | Reviewed by: The Best Ever Baby Expert Team | Last reviewed: September, 2017 


Sabriga TurgonSuctioning Meconium Immediately – Who Needs It?

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  • 7 Ways to Prevent Meconium | Best Ever Baby - December 19, 2017 reply

    […] we think of it as poop, it’s really a combination of mostly water plus amniotic fluid, intestinal cells, lanugo (fine hair that covers the fetus), mucus, and bile. About 20% of babies […]

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