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Your Baby the Mammal

Your Baby the Mammal



Pick a mammal, any mammal. Now picture that mammal as a newborn.  Imagine it immediately after it’s born.  What’s the first thing it does after it starts breathing and maybe after a short rest?  Try another mammal, and another.  Do you really think we’re the only mammal in the world that can’t find its food source after it’s born?  Now go back to that first mammal newborn, and mentally flip it over on its back.  What does it do?  Try your second mammal, and your third.  All newborn mammals are uncomfortable on their backs.  They feel totally secure only when they’re “hugging” the ground or, in the case of mammals that are built to be carried, “hugging” an adult.  That’s why you see babies quiet down when they’re picked up out of the crib or stroller.  Their natural habitat is an adult body; when they’re taken out of their habitat they lose competence and confidence.  Picking them up and holding their fronts against us to soothe them is instinctive.

For generations, we thought human babies were
little helpless lumps, but that’sbecause we fought our instincts and kept our babies almost entirely outof their natural habitat.  Even when they were held, they weren’t necessarily held with their front securely against an adult, and even
when they were held that way, there was always clothing in theway.  No wonder we thought they were helpless.  Put pajamas on a lamb, flip iton its back, keep it away from its mother, and you’d think it was helpless too!

But your newborn is really a very, very
competent little mammal.  Take off both your shirts, hold him upright between your breasts, keep his whole
front against you, and if he’s hungry (and isn’t impaired by birth drugs) he’ll work his way down to your nipple.  Guaranteed.  He may or may not latch on once he gets there; that can depend on his earlier experiences and yours.  But he will absolutely make the trip.  You may have been warned to hang on to the baby when you hold him “because babies can fall off your shoulder really fast.”  It turns out they haven’t been clumsily falling; they’ve been heading to the restaurant and we’ve been blocking the door!

Take some time to observe your little mammal
in his natural habitat.  When you settle in to breastfeed, keep his whole front against you and support him firmly behind his back and shoulders, leaving his head free and following his lead.  Snuggle his chest into the base of the mountain that is your breast, holding his back and shoulders close.  Touch his lower face to some part of your breast if he begins to fuss…and watch.  You’ll probably see his headt ip back, his mouth and chin reach forward, his mouth open wide, and the search for lunch begin in earnest.  Or lie on your side with your baby on his side – facing you, below your breast –and watch him wriggle up the bed to your nipple. 

Babycare is much, much easier when you
remember that this isn’t some alien that needs an instruction book.  Your baby is just a baby mammal, and a very
competent one at that.  In fact, your baby is an instruction book.
As long as he has his natural habitat – you.

©2015 Diane Wiessinger,MS, IBCLC  www.normalfed.com


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