Hard Wired Babies and Coiled Springs
We are born with a set of innate reflexes hard wiring our babies to seek their source of nourishment soon after birth. This is not an unusual concept if you think about it, we are mammals after all. Picture this a litter of puppies are born, all with their eyes tightly shut, so they have to rely on their other senses and innate reflexes to find their source of nourishment with the instinctive primitive drive to survive and continue the species. The bitch rolls over onto her side exposing her teats and then lays there relying on her offspring to get on with finding the them. The puppies use their sense of touch that stimulates a reflex triggering their neurons to make connections with their muscles. The pads of their paws pumble the bitch's abdomen as they clambered onto her their bellies are in complete contact with her and finally their back legs and back paws are touching, if not her their siblings. When all these areas are in contact with the bitch the reflex to latch are triggered. It is no different for our babies who are hard wired to seek the nipple and suckle to ensure they survive.
Dr Theresa Nesbitt, OB/GYN stumbled across this when she struggled her son, she was in that all too common point of; nipples chewed, damaged, cracked and everyone is in tears and you just can't see how you will continue. She thought back to her days working in a Zoo as a teenager and when she was a dog breeder that mammals like to feed with their tummy down. As soon has she laid back turned her son over and plonked him in a 'tummy-down' position he latched and fed well. Dr. Nesbitt later began to study neuroscience, brain research and how this relates in human and mammal lactation. On meeting Nancy Mohrbacher IBCLC, FILCA and discussing the theory, which is not really anything new they realised mothers needed guidance to return to our evolutionary roots and the technique and teachings they developed are called Natural Breastfeeding .
I had always known about 'laid back' positions when I studied to become a breastfeeding specialist and when delivering the UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative programme to maternity staff when I was an Infant Feeding Lead Specialist Midwife. However, it wasn't until I came across the Natural Breastfeeding programme did it all fall into place.They explain beautifully how this works and Dr Nesbitt talks of the pressure points (link to YouTube video) on a baby that need to be in contact with the mother's body (or something) to trigger their reflex to latch.
What do Stability, Coordination and Slinky have in common?:
The 'flailing arms' mentioned the clip is such a common description of how a baby acts at the breast in those early days when you are trying your best to latch them, their mouth is open, your nipple is right there for the taking, but they just can't coordinate their body to relax, tilt their head back and latch. They key word here is 'coordinate'. A newborn needs a lot of things to be in place before they have the stability and strength to lift their head or make a movement towards the breast. Think about the nine instinctive steps, know as the Birth Crawl, each of these has a moment of rest because of the effort that goes into each stage. There are the reflexes at play when your newborn is trying to self-latch. Imagine your baby as a slinky or a spring, the slinky is only stable when each layer is stacked on top of each other otherwise everything just topples over. The baby's body is the same, unless they have a steady core they don't feel coordinated and stable. This is indicated by their arms and legs flailing around and they may arch backwards, kick their legs. Then there is that miraculous split second when you are about to give up they latch a drink away, their bodies relax and their tight fists begin to unravel.
A human baby is a mammal at the end of the day and they are born with only basic instincts and therefore have neurological stimulus and reflex to enable them to feed, be nurtured and survive. By understanding their needs at this level can really help new parents to figure out what to do, like Dr Theresa Nesbitt did and follow your instincts. Parents and babies are learning all the time about each other and this is no different. I encourage parents to watch their baby's behaviour and body movements and try and make small adjustments to where they are laying or how she is sitting. This is a dance between mother and baby, learning how they fit together.
If you would like support with supporting you to find the position that works for you and enable your baby to latch comfortably you can book a consultation https://www.breastfeedinghub.org/book-services.