A factory reset for babies- the magic of Skin to Skin
As International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) we are often receiving calls for consults when women have tried everything, and are on their last tether. For many they may have received advice from friends, family, social media or other health professionals before calling us. There may have been lots of involvement and additional resources such as breastfeeding aids, bottles, nipple shields, Supplemental Nursing Systems (SNS), pillows, etc may be involved to try and make breastfeeding successful.
Becoming a parent is so overwhelming and then if you are coupled with breastfeeding challenges this can bring a whole new level of feelings that may not have been expected.
In these instances, we often refer to 'Resetting to Factory Settings'. Did you know a baby is born with a natural instinct to find the breast and feed themselves, it is vital for their survival. Once placed on the mothers chest post birth a baby will 'crawl', bob their head, find and attach to the breast using a few natural instincts. This is often referred to a 'breast crawl' or 'Baby-led attachment'. A simple search of YouTube with these titles will bring up a multitude of videos on this, though I will post a few favourites below. Research shows that skin to skin post birth and the babies first feed within the first hour of life is optimum for successful breastfeeding.
For some women, having their baby placed on their chest is not possible due to medical emergencies with either mum or baby, though it is important to note that this instinct in the baby is evident until up to 12 weeks of age. You may have heard of the Baby Friendly Health Initiative (BFHI) and Step 4 is to "Place babies in skin-to-skin contact with their mothers immediately following birth for at least an hour and encourage mothers to recognise when their babies are ready to breastfeed, offering help if needed." Therefore it is important to check if the hospital you are booked into is BFHI accreditied, and have this discussion with your midwife and put in your birthing plan when able.
If for any reason this could not happen, all is not lost and often we are suggesting to mothers to attempt this, days or weeks after birth to 'reset factory settings'. As this instinct is present for up to 12 weeks, sometimes having a little breastfeeding holiday and lying skin to skin with you baby for a few hours will do wonders for improving attachment and also milk supply.
One client we saw whose baby was 5 weeks old, and had a mountain of challenges thus far, we suggested just spending skin to skin for now. With permission this is the message I received:
"As soon as I put her on my chest my milk started to run and she headed straight for the boob! It felt so good letting her go on herself! She's been on now falling asleep then going back on for about an hour! This wasn't my plan but it must be hers."
When your baby is distressed, tired or out of sorts "Resetting Factory Settings" and engaging in skin to skin can help to destress your baby and yourself. A baby that is distressed will find it harder to feed as they have difficulty in effectively sucking and swallowing as their tongue is on the roof of their mouth.
A good reset can work wonders for both you and your baby.
National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) 2012, Infant feeding guidelines. National Health and medical Research council, Canberra, viewed 10 April 2017
Stuebe, A 2014, ‘Enabling women to achieve their breastfeeding goals’, Obstretrics and Gynecology, vol. 123, no. 3, pp. 643-652.