What is Breast Crawl - Facts, Benefits, Do & Don'ts

This Simple Exercise At Birth Can Solve Bonding, Breastfeeding, and Parenting Problems For Newborns

Human beings are guided by their instincts more than they realise, acknowledge or give credit to. It goes by a lot of names – intuition, instinct, gut feeling. We look at a person and we just know we have found a new best friend, or the love of our life. In the midst of watching a cricket match, we just know that our team is going to lose. Instinct is rightly described by many as ‘knowing something, without knowing why’. Let’s find out about an instinct that our little babies have right from birth, and why it is so special.

Instincts have accumulated in us human beings over centuries. They are very deeply rooted, and sometimes override our conscious thoughts and judgement. However, some of the most basic instincts we have are about our primary needs – especially food.

What Is Newborn Baby Breast Crawl

Instincts are the highest in the initial years of life. Till we develop the ability to think individually and ‘make decisions’, it is our instincts that guide us through the initial years.

The newborn baby breast crawl, is the process during which a newborn that is placed on the mother’s body right after birth, crawls to the mother’s breasts and self-initiates the first breastfeeding session. (Note: this process is initiated before the baby is taken away for cleaning and measurements.)

It is common practice now-a-day to take the baby away immediately after birth for cleaning and measurements. The initial contact between mother and newborn is not initiated until these things are taken care of. While this might seem the norm, it affects both mother and child adversely in more than one ways. However, the single biggest motivation to mothers and doctors worldwide should be the findings of a study carried out in 2006 (Edmond et. al.) that predicted a 22% decrease in neonatal deaths if newborns were initiated to breastfeed within the first hour of their birth.

Breast Crawl Has Unparalleled Benefits for Mother and Baby

Apart from significantly decreasing chances of neonatal death, following advantages speak in favour of breast crawl and self-attachment.

1. Expulsion of Placenta

During the process of the newborn baby crawling to breastfeed, over the mother’s body till her breasts, pressure is exerted on the mother’s body. The newborn’s limbs massage the woman’s body, and in turn make it far easier and less painful for the placenta to be removed from the mother’s body.

2. Initiation and Bonding

The newborn, guided by his instincts, seeks for the mother’s breast to have his first feed. This leads to significantly heightened level of bonding between mother and baby.

Studies indicate that a mother may not instantly feel immense and deep love for her newborn the moment she lays eyes on him. However, a mother is most receptive in those initial few moments right after giving birth to her baby. If mother and child are allowed to bond during this period without being separated from each other, they are able to establish their new relationship better, faster, and in stronger ways.

3. Lowered Risk of Postpartum Depression

One of the biggest unaddressed problems of motherhood is postpartum depression. Postpartum depression (PPD) can have long-reaching effects on both the mother and her baby. However, baby breast crawl can effectively and significantly reduce the risk of a new mother going into postpartum depression.

As the baby seeks the mother’s breasts to feed, he uses his hands, limbs, and his sense of sight, smell and sound to ‘get to know’ his mother. As the baby reaches the breast and touches them with his palms and hands, the mother experiences a surge of oxytocin (also known as ‘the love hormone’) in her body, and the infant’s. This allows the mother to feel a deep connection with the baby, which further ensures that she feels love for the baby. This reduces the risk of PPD.

4. Ease of Breastfeeding

The surge of oxytocin that the mother experiences has another advantage: it helps her to release breastmilk easily and readily, as it facilitates the production of prolactin.

The number of mothers having problem with breastfeeding their babies, and low production of breastmilk is steadily on the rise. We hear an increasing number of stories about women struggling with these two things that should ideally come very naturally and ‘instinctively’ to them. The reason of course is that by taking the baby away from the mother right after birth, we are killing the very instincts that should help both mother and child in bonding and nutrition.

5. Sensory Inputs and Quiet Alertness

According to several studies, the following has been observed of babies in their early minutes of life: babies that are placed on the mother’s body for breast crawl right after birth, stop crying and go quiet. They begin to assess their surroundings and taking everything around them in – the different sounds, smells, and the touch of their mother’s body. They also are able to recognise the mother’s voice and smell. Typically, babies then fall off asleep by a maximum period of 2-2.5 hours.

This period is called the initial quiet alertness. The baby’s brain is in a state of alertness that allows it to process the very first sensory inputs about the world. Three things happen if babies are separated during this time from their mother:

  • they cry incessantly
  • the first breastfeed is delayed
  • sensory development is affected

6. Reduced Risk of Parenting Disorders

As explained earlier, oxytocin production is facilitated by the newborn baby breast crawl in both the mother’s and the infant’s body. However, this oxytocin goes beyond the initial bonding and plays a much bigger role in the life of both mother and child.

Studies have revealed that the initial contact and bonding facilitated through the baby crawling to breast after birth can actually curb future behavioural and parenting problems such as child abuse, abandonment, neglect, etc.

If you pause and reflect on this for a moment, it won’t be hard to figure: most of the common sentiments we feel for our mothers stem from this connect that we all have with our mother. Why is it that we feel safe and secure when mother is around? Why do we crave for our mother’s presence, her hug, when we are in trouble or stressed? It is because she is the first person who has nurtured us (quite literally) from the moment we opened our eyes and looked at her.

Why would anyone want to prevent this from happening?

Newborn Baby Breast Crawl: Dos and Don’ts

While the process seems very instinctive and natural, several seemingly minor mistakes can rob the newborn baby breast crawl of its efficacy. Here are some basic dos and don’ts to follow when aiding a newborn crawling to breast for his first breastfeed.

  • Do not ‘clean’ the mother’s body before initiating the breast crawl. One would think that the breasts need to be washed and cleaned before contact. However, doing so will rob them of their odour, which feeds the baby with significant olfactory stimulus.
  • Do not wipe the baby’s hands, even if the baby is thoroughly dried.
  • The mother should be sat with her head placed on a pillow. This will allow her to facilitate better eye contact with her baby.
  • The mother and baby may be kept warm using a blanket during the breast crawl to improve quality of skin-to-skin contact.
  • The mother and baby should be allowed to stay in the labour room till the first breastfeed is successfully completed. The baby should not be separated from the mother till the process is complete.
  • Other procedures like cleaning, measurements, bathing etc. should be delayed till after the first breastfeeding session.

From curbing postpartum depression, to helping mother-baby bonding, to ensuring ample breastmilk supply, the breast crawl has a lot of merit to be made a commonplace practice. Help your family and friends know more about this by sharing this knowledge with them.

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