the breast crawl
October 3, 2010 § 2 Comments
I’ve been reading Karin Cadwell and Cindy Turner-Maffei’s fabulous book Continuity of Care in Breastfeeding: Best Practices in the Maternity Setting. Here’s a little of what I’ve learned:
Because our system sees the newborn as a pediatric patient and the mother as an obstetric patient, the urge is to care for them separately and reunite them when both are deemed stable. Nothing could be further from the biologic imperative. In order for baby and mother to recover from the birth and stabilize, they should do so as a unit. … When allowed to lie skin to skin with their mothers for the first hour or 2 after birth, newborn babies can find the breast and initiate suckling without any help from their mothers.
This is known as the breast crawl. They quote this excerpt from Marshall and Phyllis Klaus:
There is something special about the first hour of life. Parents have waited many months to see their baby and surprisingly when the baby is born, he or she is in a special state of alertness — called State Four, the quiet state of consciousness, ready to meet its parents, and is especially interested in the mother’s and father’s face.
In this special state, the baby’s eyes are wide open, the baby is quiet. The baby has heard and remembers the mother’s voice from uterine life and will distinguish her voice from other women’s voices, and 80% of babies remember the father’s voice. The baby is warmed by the mother’s chest and soothed by the mother’s touch. This quiet time together helps the transition from uterine life to the outside world.
This special state in the infant lasts for 30 to 45 minutes or longer. All sorts of exchanges between the mother and infant are going on. The baby is taking in the mother through many senses as is the mother learning about her baby. The baby is becoming familiar with the mother’s smell and within a few days will pick out his or her mother’s breast pad from other women’s breast pads. This is related to the particular smell of one’s own mother not her milk.
As the baby gazes in the mother’s face he is recording a memory of her face so that if he is tested with a picture of his mother’s face and other women’s faces four hours later, he will choose his mother’s face over and over again.
The mother is taking in her baby also, by touch, smell, as well as sight. Curiously, if she is tested a few hours later to pick out her baby from two others, she will know her baby by touch and smell within one day.
Read more about the breast crawl here.