Have you ever seen a puppy or a kitten blindly make her way to her mother’s teat, locate it, and begin to feed? It’s somewhat of a tiny miracle. It happens all the time, just an everyday fact of life, but still thrilling and moving to witness, should you be so fortunate.
Did you know that human babies, just like other baby mammals, are born with an innate drive to get to the breast, latch on, and suckle? It’s true, but you don’t have to take our word for it—you can watch for yourself, here or here, or all over youtube.com.
It wasn’t long ago that we thought that babies were passive at the breast—and maybe they were, from labor medications long fallen out of favor, medications that suppressed their senses and their ability to locate the breast.
But now we know that if we can create an environment free of medications that slow the baby down, an environment that allows for a period of uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth, the environment baby seems programmed to expect—baby will actively seek the breast and many will latch on effectively with minimal assistance from the mother.
But what about the mother? How does she know what to do? Watch the videos. She is being guided and lovingly supported by those around her.
That’s because breastfeeding is an instinctive behavior for the newborn. Babies don’t need to take a breastfeeding class, and they don’t feel inhibited or self-conscious about it either, for that matter.
There’s a story in the lactation world about a team of volunteer (human!) mothers teaching a pregnant gorilla how to breastfeed. This is back in the 80s in Ohio. As the story goes, the mother gorilla rejected her first newborn, who then was bottle fed and didn’t survive. The volunteer mothers were asked to come to the zoo to breastfeed their babies in front of the gorilla enclosure to demonstrate how to feed a baby.
That’s because breastfeeding is a learned and social behavior for the mother. And it’s not just about the milk, or nutrition. It’s a whole relationship, but with food! A joyful, challenging, and deeply rewarding relationship.
So sure, we at the Empowered Blog can give you some tips and hacks and do some myth busting, and we do, but I’m afraid there is no crash course that will see you through your breastfeeding journey, and the headline was essentially click bait.
Kidding. Of course we have something for you!
How to Get Started Off Right
Gather information and create a structure of support for yourself.
Sure, take a breastfeeding class if your hospital or birth center offers one. But more importantly, keep all the handouts from class in a folder near your bed or breastfeeding chair, somewhere at the ready for when you need them. Put the name and number of the woman who taught the class, or another trusted breastfeeding helper or lactation consultant in your phone and know that you mostly likely will be calling her. Bookmark this blog, and other good sources of breastfeeding information, like this website.
Talk to actual nursing mothers. Do you have a friend or sister who is breastfeeding? Sit with her as she feeds, watch how she does it, and ask her about it. If you don’t have a breastfeeding mother in your social circle or family, find a nursing mother’s support group like La Leche League and go to a couple of meetings. Pregnant women are always welcome.
Finally, let your partner and your support network know that you plan to breastfeed. Let them know it’s important to you, and let them know that their support can help you have a more joyful experience and help you meet your breastfeeding goals.
Cheers to you on your breastfeeding journey!