Think Breastfeeding is Not Instinctual? Think Again!

Breastfeeding problems seem to be a common occurrence these days, and you’ll hear a lot of moms say “it’s not instinctual”, meaning they weren’t born knowing how to breastfeed and the knowledge doesn’t come naturally once baby’s born.

Well, then the question becomes-if it’s not instinctual at all, how were babies breastfed for thousands of years successfully without the help of lactation consultants or medical staff (and only the cultural learning from seeing babies breastfed regularly)?

According to Tracy Cassels, Ph.D., founder and primary writer for Evolutionary Parenting:

… the question isn’t whether or not breastfeeding is instinctual, but rather for whom breastfeeding is instinctual.  That’s right – all this focus on whether or not moms instinctively know how to breastfeed and get her baby to latch properly is silly because it’s actually our infants who have the instinct.  Their desire to stay alive means they are born with the knowledge of how to suckle and how to get to that breast if we leave them alone to do it.

Here that, moms? Your babies have the instinct! They know how to nurse. They have a powerful survival instinct guiding them towards nourishment and nutrition. As Tracy says, just leave them alone to do it! Okay, wait, don’t literally leave them alone, obviously. Tracy adds:

… it’s important to note that the infant’s instinct is intertwined with the natural instinct for a mother to immediately hold her infant on her chest, skin to skin.  In fact, the umbilical cord serves to keep mom and baby together, suggesting a period of time in which the two are to remain close right after birth. While mammals and humans have “cut” through the cord at some point, it has never been immediately after birth until adopted as a standard practice by obstetricians.  This time of connectedness after birth is key to developing the breastfeeding relationship as it allows the infant to do what he or she instinctually wants to do – get to that breast.

So what does she really mean by “leave them alone?” What does that look like in real-life terms?

It looks like the Breast Crawl!

Lay a newborn baby on mommy’s tummy and baby will move towards the breast, instinctually.

In scientific studies examining the success of the Breast Crawl, it was found that nearly all infants can accomplish latching and sucking on their own while a small percentage require a bit of help latching.  In fact, over four separate studies, only 1 infant failed to make it to the nipple.

Allowing baby to find the breast within the first 30-60 minutes after birth, without ever leaving mommy’s tummy (even to get bathed, wrapped, or weighed as is common in most hospitals) is the best start to what could be a long and joyous nursing relationship. This skin-to-skin contact and momma-baby bonding right after birth is crucial to successful breastfeeding, and this nursing position supports optimal latching and milk transfer. That last bit is super important since so many mothers stop breastfeeding due to latch issues and/or what they think are milk supply issues (but are really milk transfer problems).

Check out the video below to watch a beautiful newborn baby breast crawl and self-latch.


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