Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Biological and Laidback Breastfeeding

There has been a bit of a revival around this subject over the last few years. However its not a new topic by any means.

Before breastfeeding books and gurus, new mothers had to rely on their instincts and on the women around them. Women and girls would have seen breastfeeding happening all the time, it was perfectly natural and to be blunt, there was no other choice. Babies who were not breastfed, either by their own mother or by another lactating woman in the group, would die. Choice was not a luxury of the pre modern woman.

So back to instincts. Suzanne Colson wrote about biological nurturing and the principle of breastfeeding being a continuation of the baby being in the womb (source: Womb to World, A Metabolic Perspective in Midwifery Today, 2002) and I've long found the idea that a baby is born with all the 'tools' it needs to breastfeed truly fascinating.

Mothers have historically misread the signs of a newborn baby. Where thrashing hands and feet are seen, it is often presumed that the baby is fighting with the mother and actually doesn't want to breastfeed. In fact, those movements are the babys attempt to propel itself toward the breast. Another common one is the head bobbing. Sometimes this is perceived to be baby trying to get away from Mum. This is just not the case. Baby is bobbing his head around to locate the darker areola.

Colson carried out research and actually filmed babies making their way, virtually unaided to Mums breast. It's extraordinary.

So how to do it?

Mother needs to lie back with all parts of her body totally supported. Yes... relax! Then baby lays on top of mother, completely supported by her. The baby can be at any angle but I've seen it generally with feet lower on mothers abdomen. Then basically wait. Allow baby to take the lead and the bobbing, arm and leg movements will get the baby where they want to be.

A note of common sense. If the baby is already screaming their little head off, then this is unlikely to work. This idea is based on the premise that the babys cues have already been followed in the lead up to a feed. Baby can tell you when they're hungry without resorting to crying.

* Hand to mouth
* sucking movements
*head bobbing and rooting
* lip smacking/ pursing
* hands wriggling/massaging

These can be observed even before the baby has woken. Babies really are amazing and by looking out for these cues, life with a newborn can be much less stressful all round.
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