As a doula I often remind moms that labor works best when uninterrupted. Given the opportunity to blossom, oxytocin surges and labor will power along in a beautiful and primal way. If adrenaline kicks in, perhaps because of fear, negativity, worry, or loud hospital corridor noises … a good labor pattern could be thrown off course.
Similarly, as a lactation consultant, I remind mothers that the same holds true for getting breastfeeding off to the best start possible. Breastfeeding is a symbiotic dance of intuitive and primal bonding, where disruption and interference can lead the pair astray. Left alone to explore, most babies do just fine given space to trust and use its five senses. No sales gimmicks, no merchandising, no fancy pillows or swaddling cloth. Just mama and baby, skin to skin.
A baby needs to smell you. Let baby be on your body, skin to skin, smelling your oils and scent. When fresh from the womb, decline a “bath” in the nursery (babies aren’t dirty after all) and request to wash your baby yourself in your own time. Let the womb scent imprint on your baby those first hours. Rub any vernix into babies skin rather than wash away. These smells will trigger awareness in your baby that she is right where she needs to be – near you!
A baby needs to taste you. If you allow a baby to “crawl” up your abdomen to your breast in those first moments of life, a baby will pick up your flavor and respond favorably. There are wonderful videos of “the newborn crawl” – ask your childbirth educator about them. Sensing through crawling will stimulate neck, mouth and suckling reflexes as baby roots around looking for a nipple. Allow his lips to take in the world around him as he finds his way to your breast to nurse.
A baby needs to touch you. Throw out those darn baby mittens! In the picture see how baby is hugging the breast? No swaddling or mittens. See mother’s gentle hands cradling her baby? Allow baby to take hold and feel around to get its bearings. A good starting position is to recline a bit and put baby in the midline of your chest, eyes at the level of the nipples. Just let baby root, wiggle and feel around. Baby’s hands are vital to orienting itself towards an optimal nursing position, to navigate and balance itself to ensure a good latch. Be patient and with good support, give baby time to explore.
A baby needs to see you. It is no coincidence that a newborns range of vision is 8 – 15 inches. Their focus is poor beyond that range at birth, but Mother Nature knew baby wanted to see its mother. And sure enough, 8 – 15 inches is the distance between mother and baby’s face while breastfeeding. This ideal distance most likely evolved because of breastfeeding. So gaze into your babies eyes and know that she sees you.
A baby needs to hear you. A newborn will turn its head toward the direction of its mother’s or father’s voice. In the womb, your baby was rocked and sung to by the soft, buffered tones of your voice and heartbeat. Baby knows your voice and heartsong, so sing, hum and talk to baby often. Even at birth, the tender voice and inflection of love, support, trust and confidence resonates intuitively with baby. As your little one orients, roots and suckles, cheer him on in a gentle and loving way. Some parents find “ooohing” and “aaahing” over a newborn counter-intuitive at first, having never ooogled over a baby before. Let the primal seeds of vocally praising your baby take root. Growing up hearing supportive, loving and peaceful words on a regular basis can only be a good thing!
Peaceful Breastfeeding To All ~