The Case for the Breast Crawl (VIDEO)
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Babies are NOT born hungry.
A lot of times, right after the birth, you tend to feel a rush to do that first nursing session...pressure to would be better wording. Instead, if moms knew that babies are not born hungry and that if they allowed baby to do the breast crawl, baby will be the one to initiate that first nursing session.
Studies show that it can take baby an average of 45 minutes to initiate the breast crawl. Phew...pressure...reduced. This means that mom can just touch, love on, breathe, relax, cry, laugh...and just hold her baby and enjoy the moment. Her baby will be the one to show her when baby is hungry through the breastcrawl.
And it's simply amazing.
History of the term Breast Crawl
The term breast crawl was first coined as a noun in 1998 by Dr. Marshall Klaus, a renowned and internationally known neonatologist and researcher who did extensive research on mother-baby bonding and on newborn behavior. Before then, the term was used as a verb and the research results would be termed for skin-to-skin contact instead of the breast crawl.
The Baby Friendly Initiative, a worldwide program of the World Health Organization and UNICEF, was launched in 1991. The purpose was to increase the breastfeeding rates worldwide, through maternity care that protects, supports, and promotes exclusive breastfeeding. Two of the steps in the Baby Friendly Initiative is the initiation of early breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact.
One of the ways that has been research as way to initiate breastfeeding through skin-to-skin contact is the breast crawl, though the "how" of skin-to-skin contact is not specifically defined.
In the course that I teach nurses for the Baby Friendly Initiative, we discuss in detail the benefits and the how-to of the breast crawl, so that the nurses are then able to support mothers in initiating breastfeeding through the breast crawl.
How do babies know to do the breast crawl?
For the baby to do the breast crawl, it uses all it's super powers - olfactory, visual, taste, auditory, touch, central component, orofacial, both lower and upper limbs, salivation, and neuro-endocrine component to initiate the first nursing session. Babies are so amazing!
They use the taste and the smell of the amniotic fluid on their hands to make a connection with the lipid substance that is on the mother's nipple, which is similar to the amniotic fluid. The voice and touch of the mother makes the baby feel safe and secure. The rise in oxytocin for both mother and baby increases the relaxation and loving feelings and emotions of the mother. And with using it's arms and legs, the baby produces benefits to both the mother and directly to the baby as well.
Benefits of the Breast Crawl
There have been numerous studies done on the breast crawl and each has shown benefits to both mother and baby. Commentary by the researchers will often include the question --- "When there are so many benefits...why is the breast crawl not standard practice?"
Watch babies do the breast crawl.
Some of the benefits include:
- In the breast crawl position, mothers experience several peaks of oxytocin occurring up to 1 hour after delivery
- Increase of breastfeeding longevity
- Helps mother expel placenta quicker
- Reduces uterine bleeding
- Reduces postpartum anemia
- The breast crawl position provides comfort and warmth for the baby
- Babies who were allowed to breast crawl cried less than babies who were removed from their mother's body shortly after birth.
- Babies had more rapid recovery from transient acidosis at birth
- The early contact and connection with baby, decreases the child's risk of violence later in life.
- Increased brain activity for the mother
- Increase of calorie absorption for the baby
Dos and Don'ts for Success of the Breast Crawl
For the Mother
- Use drugs for labour analgesia judiciously.
- Do not wash / wipe breast before feeding.
- Raise mother's head on a pillow to facilitate mother-baby visual contact.
- Do not move mother out of labour room until completion of the first breastfeed.
For the Baby
- A baby who has cried well does not need oro-nasal suction.
- Dry the baby thoroughly except for the hands.
- Do not pass orogastric / nasogastric tube or do gastric suction as a routine.
- The baby and the mother should be covered together with a cloth, so that they keep warm while continuing with skin-to-skin contact.
- Delay the injection of vitamin K, weighing, routine measuring and dressing (wrapping) till after the first breastfeed.
- Baby bath is best delayed to beyond 24 hours.
- Continue the first skin-to-skin contact till completion of the first breastfeed.
M Girish, N Mujawar, P Gotmare, N Paul, S Punia & P Pandey. Impact and feasibility of breast crawl in a tertiary care hospital, Journal of Perinatology volume 33, pages288–291 (2013)
Abdulghani, Edvardsson, Amir. Worldwide prevalence of mother-infant skin-to-skin contact after vaginal birth: A systematic review.
Marshall Klaus. Mother and Infant: Early Emotional Ties, Pediatrics, November 1998
The Mother and Child Health and Education Trust, Breastcrawl.org
Tiwari, Singh, Purohit, Shyam. Role of breast crawl in maternal health and wellbeing