Did you know that babies go through a sequence of 9 different steps or behavioural changes that commence straight after the birth?
It is amazing to see it how a tiny baby can make this happen; if we allow the natural reflexes to kick in a baby will use all of its senses to get up closer to the mum and her breasts. The baby moves up (crawling is the description) or wriggles down, intent on getting to the breasts. Baby aims to get to the 'dinner table' because it has heard about the menu at this new restaurant!
It is all about instinct and the best way to help the newborn is to enable Skin to Skin Contact (SSC), straight from birth, where the baby lies over the mother, head up and legs down, vertical along mum's body. There is no major interference from mum or staff as this will cause a reset and some confusion about what baby was planning to do.
Cry: Babies usually cry just after birth.
Rest: Just a quiet time of figuring out what to do next.
Awake: Head starts bobbing up and down and side to side and the arms, legs and shoulders start to move a little.
Active: Baby starts to push the body, licks the lips and starts turning the head looking for the boob, any boob, "just get me some food!"
Crawling: All that pushing the body actually gets the body moving; not like the crawl of an older baby- more like a tummy shuffle using the knees, hands and feet but gee they can move!
Resting: This happens from time to time and you can see the baby licking its mouth or sucking the hands.
Hand massage: The baby instinctively reaches out, with an open hand and massages the breast which is great as this helps start the hormonal response in the mother and gets the milk flow happening by the time baby reaches the 'milk bar'.
Familiarisation: Well that is a big word for saying that the baby has got to ground zero ie nipple-areola and is reading the menu at the restaurant then putting in the order! There is licking, touching of that area ie getting familiar with that and preparing for the next step.
Suckling: Baby attaches at breast and begins to suckle and sample all the courses on offer with the different flavours and textures coming through.
Sleeping: Baby doesn't take much in, by adult standards, but there is a satisfaction and a full belly and after all of that activity, sleep will follow.
Babies who are well and are able to have this experience are more likely to be feeding better at the end of the first week and at one month.
The mother does not have to exert any extra effort for this to happen- just lay back, for the next 60 to 90 minutes, with baby over the top and let this positioning and sequencing happen.
The mum does absolutely nothing but wait, wait until baby slowly creeps up towards the nipple, has a rest, then another rest, pops up on the elbows to look at you, yes, right into your eyes before moving again and the breast is reached, tasted and the feeding begins.
A mum is able to help baby wriggle into just the right spot, of course; baby doesn't have to do it all! It is a matter of guiding rather than fully manoeuvring baby into the right spot. Having the baby's feet touching a solid surface such as the mattress or having mum's hands holding the feet helps junior to feel grounded and also gives a springboard to help baby to launch into the right spot! Baby leads and mum follows.
What happens in that first hour is crucial so forget the phone and social media; forget the baby weight and friends who may be waiting for the birth news. Even forget the details that the grandparents want- sorry grandies but this is absolutely the best way to get breastfeeding off to the best start!
Q: What's in it for you? A: Much less work over the next few days!!
Resources: Journal of Human Lactation 2015 Vol.31 (3) 452-457 Behaviour of the Newborn during Skin to Skin Contact
If you want to know more about the human baby side of this, have a look for any articles by:
Suzanne Colson- Biological Nurturing
Nancy Mohrbacher-Natural Breastfeeding
Christina Smillie-Baby Led and Laid Back Breastfeeding