Why Breastfeeding Comes Naturally to Most Babies – But NOT to Their Mothers

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On the one hand, breastfeeding is, of course, natural. In some ways it’s amazing to see all of the babies who instinctively know what they’re doing. There’s even a term, “breast crawl,” that describes how babies, just minutes or hours old, will inch themselves from mother’s belly right up to the breast, even though babies can’t technically crawl until many months after birth.

On the other hand, it no longer “comes naturally” to so many mothers in our society because while babies get their instincts from nature and biology, mothers receive much of their know-how from information and observation. These days, the opportunities for moms-to-be or expectant parents to witness the ins and outs (literally!) of breastfeeding are few and far between. Their peers are often using formula or expressed breast milk when in public or amongst company, for convenience or privacy. Or, they are using covers or retreating behind closed doors to feed their baby, due to modesty or because of fear of backlash for nursing in public.

We know from our primate relatives in captivity that this lack of exposure to normal functioning – in this case the feeding of our offspring – leads to dysfunction. A gorilla in an Ohio zoo in the 80’s gave birth, but had never witnessed another gorilla mother with her baby. The gorilla had no inclination or instinct to feed her baby, and it died. When she was pregnant with her next baby, the Zoo brought in mothers from La Leche League to model breastfeeding. They came regularly, and the gorilla began to show some interest. Still, when the baby came, the gorilla showed no ability to do what was needed. The human mothers came back. One demonstrated for the gorilla step by step – how to hold and position the baby, how to stimulate the baby’s lips… and the gorilla followed suit. That’s all it took. (Julia Jones,

Given that we are lacking the advantage of intimate observation, more and more mothers are trying to find other ways to inform themselves and set themselves up for reaching their breastfeeding goals (whether that be to breastfeed for one week, one year, or whatever they decide). Most people know that lactation consultants can step in and address challenges, sometimes an invaluable step to making breastfeeding work for a mom and baby. However, often by the time a lactation consultant is called into the situation, there have been some long days (and nights) of struggling, questioning, and distressing over the situation. Expectant parents are now looking for breastfeeding classes to take before childbirth – classes that familiarize them with important facts, prepare them for what to expect, and equip them with tools and resources for the challenges that might arise. A breastfeeding class can help parents relax instead of stress about what’s to come – and we see time and time again that helping parents feel relaxed and confident has a powerful trickle down effect (sometimes literally!) Many are saying that while the readings and classes they took prepared them for pregnancy and childbirth, there’s very little to prepare them for what’s next. A breastfeeding class is one important step in that direction.

One Moon Doula Services has partnered with a Certified Lactation Educator to provide Breastfeeding Classes in North County, San Diego. Parents will learn about what factors impact the mother’s breastmilk supply and how to know if you’re on the right track, what positions encourage proper latch, what to know if you will be pumping or storing breastmilk, what you need to know about the makeup of breastmilk, and what to look out for to prevent problems such as infection. You will also have the option to arrange for the Lactation Educator to make a follow up visit to your home, after baby arrives, to reinforce what you’ve learned!

See our “Other Services” for more information about Breastfeeding Classes.

Kathryn KeenerWhy Breastfeeding Comes Naturally to Most Babies – But NOT to Their Mothers

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