I have been suggesting laid back postures to the mums I support for some years now. If you don’t know what Biological Nurturing (BN) is, have a look at Suzanne Colson’s website. The magic that happens when a mother leans back in the chair and makes her whole body (breast to pubic bone) available to the baby, who lies prone, is just incredible to watch.
The mother and baby’s instincts begin to work together, rather that to fight each other. The mother breathes out, her shoulders come down, and an oxytocin glow infuses her face. The baby suckles, drinks, comes off and on again in his own rythmn, without help and the mother begins to dance to his tune, feeling proud of what he can do, all on his own.
So often, when a baby is held in the cross-cradle, or cradle, hold that we have been teaching mothers for generations, she ends up leaning forward, with a aching back and neck, shoulders round her ears and a baby flailing around in her arms, boxing at her breast, shaking his head from side to side, appearing to reject the breast. The motherbaby ends up in a highly emotional state and it feels kind to offer a bottle of formula if you have no idea how to help.
I’m re-reading Suzanne’s book, ‘An Introduction to Biological Nurturing’ today and was struck by this passage, which so beautifully describes why a newborn guzzling down a bottle of formula undermines breastfeeding and explains why it has nothing to do with the baby being hungry. Here’s the passage:
…[if a health professional says]…”the baby is “not interested” in breastfeeding, it can undermine a mother’s confidence, making her think her baby does not like her milkor that she does not have enough. This can lead to feelings of guilt and inadequacy, which are heightened when the baby rapidly glugs the artifical milk drink in the bottle that is often given to the baby who is “disinterested” in breastfeeding. This rapid deglutition usually has nothing to do with interest or hunger, but rather occurs because the length of the bottle teat is specifically designed to release the suck reflex. A suck then releases a swallow. The baby held in a dorsal feeding position [the traditional feeding postures where mum sits up straight – Ed] is boxed in by maternal body, arms, and bottle; he usually has no choice but to suck. He ingests the milk rapidly because the reflexes have been released, not necessarily because he is hungry or interested. We know that the newborn’s stomach capacity is small, holding about 30mls, or less than an ounce. Yet fifteen minutes later, when the baby brings up a large quantity of milk, no-one associates this output with the “forced” bottle-feeding. Instead, the 60mls ingested is the index used to measure feeding success, even though the amount compared to neonatal stomach capacity indicates that the baby has been overfed. Taken together, these facts and observations lead us to suggest that the mechanisms underpinning breastfeeding initiation during the first days are simple reflex activity, not always triggered or associated with hunger and interest.
The number of mothers I meet who are struggling with the ripple effects of that bottle of formula in hospital is astounding. If all mothers and paediatricians knew about the baby’s inbuilt reflexes, the less heartache and damage would be caused to motherbaby.
So, lean back, get comfy, keep your baby prone on your chest. Let her bob her head and crawl around on your body til she finds the breast. Let her show you how clever she is! Let her lead the dance!
Here are some useful resources for mums who want to lie back and get comfy!
Do you have any nice stories about laid back breastfeeding? Do share them below. I’m also looking for some pics for this post – so if you have any photos of yourself nursing in the Biologicial Nurturing position that you’d be happy for me to use, please let me know!