Every newborn, when placed on the mother’s chest, soon after birth, has the ability to find its mother’s breast and latch at mom’s nipple all on their own. This is called the ‘Breast Crawl’ and it’s far more common when moms and newborns are kept together, undisturbed, after birth.When left alone and in a laying down position mom and baby have perfect skin to skin contact and are working on each other’s self-confidence.
Sadly, eager instructors can get in the way of nature’s preferred method of starting breastfeeding. I have witnessed moms helped with old techniques, where the mom is made to sit up in bed, putting a pillow under the baby while she is supposed to hold her breast this way and that to feed her baby. In essence, this way of teaching how to breastfeed is telling both parties that unless they remember and perfect this special technique they will not know what to do.
Allowing the baby to crawl to the breast and latch on on its own, is saying in essence, “I trust you know what you are doing” for all involved. My gift and privilege as a doula is to been able to witness the miracle of natural breast crawling and feeding and the amazed and joyful look in a mother’s eyes when she see her newborn get to the nipple open her mouth and begin to suckle. Thus, the seed of “I can do it” is planted in both people.
You can help your baby’s first feeding by:
- Requesting immediate skin-to-skin contact.
- Avoiding interventions or assessments on the baby unless immediately necessary.
- Observing baby go through the breastfeeding crawl sequence, assisting, but not leadin. This is difficult when we believe that the baby is crying and upset when she tries to find the breast. Try this: when you hear your child voice immediately following the birth, consider it baby talking and not baby crying. What I mean by that is that the baby at birth will talk his/her way to the breast as they tell you their birth story. So it is not up to us to shush the baby and fix it, but to encourage expression, with words such as, “Oh my goodness is that your voice? Tell me more.” When we start allowing our children to show what they can do on their own we build self- confidence.
- No visitors immediately post-birth and until breastfeeding is going well. Too many people around in the first hours of life can distract this magical, sacred moment.
Another important reminder is that newborns go through growth spurts sometimes as early as the third, sixth and ninth day of life. This means that when mom goes home on the morning of the third day of the baby’s life, baby seems fussy and very talkative and might not be sleeping at all during the night. So how do you know your baby has had enough to eat? It is pretty simple the overall proof that baby is growing and feeding is baby’s output or the amount of pee and poop he/she will have each day for the first few days. Easy to remember; first day one pee, second day two pees, third three pees , fourth day four, fifth day five, till you get to the sixth day and expect 6 or more peed each day.
Starving your baby must be the number one fear most first-time-moms have and the added pressure from family, friends and sometimes even nurses or pediatricians can really put stress on breastfeeding, especially in the first few days of a baby’s life. Left on her own with the sample formula cleverly sent to her by greedy companies, many moms lose confidence that first night and reach for that man-made powder.
So here are some things to remember:
As long as the baby looks good and is nursing every 1 to 3 hours and mom’s nipples are not getting sore, there is no need to do anything but nurse often. If baby falls asleep at the breast make sure you always take baby’s clothes off and feed skin to skin. New born can lose up to 10% to 12% of their body weight in the first week. A baby given water or formula might not nurse so strongly and mom’s confidence and milk supply will suffer for it. As Dr. Gordon says “Look at the baby not the scale.” When in doubt about your production and your baby satisfaction pediatrician Jay Gordon MD, suggests asking yourself the following questions:
1. Is your baby eager to nurse?
2. Is your baby peeing and pooping well?
3. Is your baby’s urine either clear or very pale yellow?
4. Are your baby’s eyes bright and alert?
5. Is your baby’s skin a healthy color and texture?
6. Is your baby moving its arms and legs vigorously?
7. Are baby’s nails growing?
8. Is your baby’s overall disposition happy and playful?
9. When your baby is awake do they have periods of being very alert?
If you have answered yes to most of the above questions but still worry about your baby talk to a lactation professional or la leche league peer counselor. Trust in your body’s ability to give birth to your baby and nurture him/her. You were made for this.