Born To Breastfeed
During pregnancy, we are full of expectations. But we are not the only ones. Your baby has expectations too - and as a mammal, he fully expects to breastfeed.
New Born Reflexes
Your baby is born with a number of reflexes that help him locate the breast, latch on and nurse. By 24 weeks gestation age, your baby is already sucking. Barring any anatomical problems, this suck is a perfect breastfeeding suck. At birth, a baby will automatically suck on anything placed deeply in his mouth. The rooting reflex is present from 32 weeks gestational age. This reflex causes the baby to open his mouth wide in anticipation of breastfeeding. It is strongest around 40 weeks gestational age.
Other reflexes that help your baby breastfeed include the stepping reflex. Your baby will begin "stepping" with his feet if they touch something. If your newborn is placed on your stomach immediately after an unmedicated birth, he will push with his feet until he reaches your breasts. His visual preference for round objects and dark-light juxtapositions, like your nipple and areola, further helps him find your breast. Once he is there, he will reflexively open his mouth, latch on to your breast and begin to suck.
Sight and Smell
Researchers have found that newborns prefer to look at round objects, and at juxtapositions of light and dark. This preference helps your baby find your nipple and areola. Newborns also prefer to look at faces. The distance from your breast to your face is the same distance that our newborn can see clearly.
The smell of amniotic fluid on your baby's hands is similar to a smell on your breasts. Babies use this smell to help locate the breast. It is important that your newborn's hands and your breasts should not be washed following birth.
Skin to Skin
All of your baby's physiological functions including his reflexes function best when he is skin to skin with you. Research has found that your baby maintains his body temperature best on you. His breathing and heart rate are more normal and stable and so is his blood sugar level. The baby will cry significantly less than if he is away from you.
Species Specific Milk
All mammalian milk is species specific. That means that it designed specifically for that species. Human milk is designed for human babies. It is the only milk that satisfies your babies nutritional, immunological and developmental needs completely. It is the only milk that can support your baby's cognitive development. Cows are not very smart.
Some mammal's milk keeps their babies full for long periods of time while the mother goes to find food. Humans are "constant contact mammals." Your milk is easily digested. Your baby needs to eat regularly throughout the day and night. His expectation then is to spend a lot of time in your arms and on your breast. He wasn't born just to be fed; he was born to breastfeed.