Welcome to the first entry on our blog!
Last night I gave a workshop at the Active Birth Centre on a wonderful way to have a much easier and more enjoyable start with your new baby. I introduced the concept of ‘laid-back’ breastfeeding pioneered by the midwife Suzanne Colson. It’s an approach she calls ‘Biological Nurturing’. The basic principle is that it’s much easier for both mother and baby if mum lies back and relaxes with her body contours well supported by a beanbag or lots of pillows, or the slope of the sofa, and simply lays her baby face-down on top of her body – just like the mum resting with her baby in the picture.
If we take Suzanne’s advice and lay back to start breastfeeding the baby can follow his or her innate reflexes to ‘crawl’ over the mothers body, head bobbing in search of the nipple.
This is very different to the usual outmoded advice mums are given to start feeding sitting bolt upright and holding baby sideways on resting in the crook of the arm. It’s much more difficult for baby to latch on like this, approaching the breast sideways – not surprisingly this can lead to all kinds of problems, even failure to breastfeed in a few women.
So if we take Suzanne’s advice and lay back to start breastfeeding the baby can follow his or her innate reflexes to ‘crawl’ over the mothers body, head bobbing in search of the nipple. This always reminds me of how other mammals seem to locate the breast and latch on successfully all by themselves. We are, after all, mammals too! We watched a little clip from a video made by a Swedish paediatrician Lennart Niellsen about self attachment – showing a baby doing just that! Everyone was quite amazed to see how babies KNOW instinctively how to find the breast and latch on successfully without any help whatsoever.
With mum in this position, gravity helps the baby to discover the breast, latch on and draw the nipple deep inside the mouth allowing for just the right stimulation and actions to prevent soreness and encourage milk flow. And it is so easy to feed – all you need to do is relax and allow the time it takes, so that the feeds nourish both you and your baby!!
Later on when you and baby have the hang of it and have become experts – that’s the time to move on to feeding sitting up. Night time feeding is also much less tiring when you are laying back and resting yourself.
If you have medical interventions or even a Caesarean section, the good news is that with ‘laid back’ breastfeeding the baby can be laid on top of you or across your chest skin-to skin immediately after the birth (or as soon as possible), and you can get back on track with the physiological.
‘Laid-back’ breastfeeding starts within the first half hour after the birth even before the placenta is born, whether you give birth naturally or not. After a natural birth – whether on land, on a bed or in water – for the first 10 minutes when you are still adrenalised from the birth you will probably be sitting up and holding your baby in your arms. This is great for welcoming your new baby, but after about 10 minutes or so adrenalin levels will fall and you will probably feel like resting and laying back. This is the time to lay your baby directly on top of your body ‘skin-to skin’. Then when baby finds the breast and latches on this will stimulate the contractions that birth the placenta. (Watch out for my next blog about the placenta.) If you have medical interventions or even a Caesarean section, the good news is that with ‘laid back’ breastfeeding the baby can be laid on top of you or across your chest skin-to skin immediately after the birth (or as soon as possible), and you can get back on track with the physiological.
This direct skin contact with your baby will encourage both of you to produce the ‘love’ hormone oxytocin and promote the natural close connection mothers and baby’s share – often called ‘bonding’.
So while its ‘up’ for birth – the key message of Active Birth, its ‘down’ for breastfeeding. Strange how we got it wrong – lying down for birth and sitting up to initiate breastfeeding.