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 and effectively. Just like other mammals, your baby has an innate need and an intense drive to breastfeed. To your baby it is not a choice. It is simply survival.
You have probably already noticed the reflexes that help babies find the breast. 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. This can be quite comical to observe, but it is serious business for your baby. When your baby does those things, she is looking for your breast.
If your baby has been having trouble with breastfeeding, or if breastfeeding has been uncomfortable for you, you might want to try letting your baby show you how it’s done. 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. She may scoot down your torso. Or, she may throw her entire body to one side or the other. Be prepared for any movement she wants to make! As she gets closer to your breast, 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 postion 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 Lead!“