Your Baby’s Feeding Sequence




Your baby is a mammal, no more, no less.  And like every other newborn mammal, he follows a “feeding sequence” to find his lunch.  We can shorten that sequence for most babies, but it helps a great deal to know what it is he’s looking for.


Humans are vertical.  Like the other Great Apes, we spend our lives with a vertical posture.  Look at pictures of babies in other cultures.  The babies are almost always vertical – often even when they’re feeding. 


All mammal newborns want frontal security.  Every mammal newborn wants to be able to “hug the ground,” or, in the case of primates, to hug Mama.  With their front held securely against Mama, babies can begin to think about food. 


Your instinct has you bring your baby into vertical, frontal security when he’s upset.  You pat him and talk gently to him – all instinct!  And what you’ve done is put him in a position from which he can reach his food source on his own.  It’s not much different from a mother dog rolling over to expose her belly to her babies.


We didn’t have laps until we had furniture.  Think about it!  A squatting ape has room to hold her mbaby vertically while he feeds.  Once we started sitting with horizontal thighs, space got tighter.  But you can still angle your baby down so that his hip rests on your thigh while he feeds.  He may appreciate being a little more vertical than the books show!


Whether he starts from a vertical position on your shoulder and skootches his way down, or whether you start him with his face near your breast, he expects to feel an expanse of your skin touching his lower face.  Once he does, if he’s hungry, he’ll begin to bob or root or simply reach, tipping his head back and opening his mouth wide.  “I’ve found Breast,” he’s saying.  “Now, where’s Nipple?”  If you keep your hands off your breast, he’ll find your nipple right where Mother Nature put it, and you won’t have to support your breast during the feeding.


Newborns can go forward, but not backward.  Your baby expects to find your nipple ahead of his face, not below it – to reach forward with his head tipped slightly back, not to have your nipple right in front of his mouth or, worse, down near his chin.  When you hold his back and shoulders snugly and leave his head free to tip back, he feels “solid ground” supporting him, and can do the head tip that allows him to open his mouth extra wide.  (Try opening your mouth with your chin tucked.  Your tongue humps up in back, and your jaw is cramped against your chest.  No one ever tried to chug a drink in that position.)


When your baby’s mouth opens wide and he feels a lot of breast on his tongue and a bit of nipple somewhere just ahead of his mouth, he’ll try to finish the mouthful, draw in all that hunk of breast, and begin sucking.  Continue to hold his back and shoulders close – so close that you can’t see the corner of his mouth – and you’ll probably have a much more comfortable nursing.


©2015 Diane Wiessinger, MS, IBCLC



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