Infant mammals have one thing in common. They all breastfeed. In addition, they are all equipped to squirm, crawl or swim to the breast and latch and happily suckle without the help of their mothers.
But human babies are different than other mammals, right? Don’t they need someone to “latch them on”?
Yes, human babies ARE different from other mammals. They are smarter and even more capable than their furry counterparts. After some help to get to mom’s torso, a newborn will have no trouble finding the breast and suckling comfortably. You have probably noticed that when your baby is ready to breastfeed, she turns her head back and forth on your chest and moves her body toward one breast or another while her mouth is wide open. She may also bob up and down on your chest with an open mouth. When your baby does those things, she is looking for your breast.
If your baby has been having trouble with breastfeeding, you might want to try letting her take the lead. Sit in a semi-reclined position bare from the waist up. Place your baby (also shirtless) on your chest facing you. Keep your hands close by to protect her from falling—otherwise, let her move her way. Notice how she uses her chin, cheeks and mouth to find the breast, then the nipple. When she gets close enough, she will anchor her chin to the underside of your breast, throw her head back, open her mouth wide and latch on. It may take her a few tries to get it right. You can help her by lifting the breast if necessary.
Letting your baby show you how she wants to position herself can help you understand how best to help her–even when it’s not practical to remove your shirt!
See also, “Let Your Baby Take the Lead”
Written by Renee Beebe, M.Ed., IBCLC. Renee is a lactation consultant in private practice in Seattle, Washington. She is available for home/hospital visits and phone consultations. Renee can be reached at www.second9months.com