Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Love at first latch

Gloria Lemay just posted a great piece about the importance of skin-to-skin contact after birth, and how it relates to the First Nursing Session. We know it is important to establish nursing soon after birth, but HOW soon? Is it possible to push it too much? Let's assume mom and baby have not been separated, which is the central issue. Does the first latch have to be within the first 5-10 minutes, or is there a greater window of time to work with? An excerpt, quoting IBCLC Leslie Wolff:

I feel that skin to skin after birth for the first two hours is SO important -more important than making a big effort to get that baby to breastfeed.. MAINLY because I realize that it helps the dyad - mother and baby - to recover from the birth experience, is a Win-Win situation that requires no effort, there is nothing to “succeed” in - it is just a “being” situation that is beautiful for Mom and baby. And if the baby goes for the breast - great..and if not, or the breast is offered and the baby doesn’t GO FOR IT - that’s fine. . . I know that babies are “supposed to” “immediately” start breastfeeding beautifully - but I see so many mothers and babies that are SO content just lying there Skin to Skin, relaxing, bonding in their own special way. In the past, before I discovered the beauty of Skin to Skin, I remember many frustrated Moms and babies doing their best to breastfeed, because Mom and Dad both knew that was the best thing to do immediately after birth.

I was recently reading "Your Amazing Newborn", by the wonderful Dr. Marshall Klaus, and I was interested to read that he thought that pushing the baby to latch on as! soon! as! possible! after the birth was unnecessary, and even a little interventive. As I'm sure you know, he writes extensively about following the baby's unhindered, natural cues as much as possible within the first hour or so after birth, and goes on to explain the self-attachment behaviors at length.

I can completely see where the impulse comes from, though. Delaying breastfeeding for TOO long via separation of mom and baby is so often a huge problem, so I understand the emphasis on getting breastfeeding, and making this a major priority. But it makes much more sense to me, having read Klaus and now this, to allow mom and baby to take some time to just BE. The baby's just undergone the biggest transition there ever was or will be, after all! Let the kid take a moment to just adjust to breathing, for one thing, and simply being with mama. Like Leslie wrote, if nursing is part of that just-being, GREAT, and it really is the foundation of the mother-child relationship, after all - but if it's not immediate, let them find their own way within the first couple of hours, I feel. As long as mom and baby are not separated unnecessarily, are in a supportive and nurturing environment, and skin-to-skin is encouraged, it's bound to happen organically, so to speak.

(Click the photo for some great resources from a Baby-Friendly initiative in New Zealand.)


  1. Oh, I'm so glad that you've done more with this info. I love that poster, too, and great resources when you click. Thanks for letting me know about it. Gloria in Canada

  2. I have been wanting to post on this too, reflecting that I never want to push the latch but oftentimes I do because:
    1) It is the only way to get and/or keep mom and baby together (itchy fingers want to take baby for measuring, footprinting, to the nursery, etc.)
    2) There is a limited amount of time before the itchy fingers prevail and once they do, there will be a long separation (sometimes 2-3 hours) and baby may lose interest for a while after that early window.
    So frustrating!

  3. I hadn't thought about it that way, Rebecca - that encouraging the first nursing might be a strategy for preventing or at least postponing separation of mom & babe. Wow. That's actually pretty brilliant in a backasswards way, if you know what I mean.

    I can see how that would work in a hospital setting - "We really want to make sure the baby gets breastfeeding first" surely *would* probably register more with the Itchy Finger Gang as a legitimate 'goal' than "We need to savor this afterglow and connect with one another on both a primal and energetic level." Topsy-turvy, but a very, very interesting thought.