Breastfeeding

The Cave Baby

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You may have heard of the 4th trimester? And the fact that new babies don’t like to be put down? But why does it happen? Well from an evolutionary point of view, babies are still in the “cave man” period. A new baby does not realise it is born into the relative safety of the 21st century with video monitors, central heating and a lack of predators. To a baby being put down is a life and death situation. A human baby is very helpless, unlike many other mammals, and so relies completely on its mother for food, warmth, safety, security and love. The chest is it’s safe place where all of these are freely available. If it is left alone it thinks it will either get eaten by something, starve, become cold and uncomfortable! So when a baby realises it’s on its own, it cries in order to tell it’s mother to pick it up. It’s a warning sign. It’s saying “I’m here on my own and I’m in danger”.

Once babies get to around 3 months of age they start to realise that they’re not going to be eaten by a wolf, that their house is safe and warm and that they get fed regularly. At this stage they are more likely to tolerate being put down somewhere for a short time as long as they can see someone familiar nearby.

Then once they begin to explore the world they get a little braver. However, they like to make sure there is someone familiar around to make sure they’re still safe.

Breastfeeding

New mums, be more kangaroo!

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I talk a lot about humans and kangaroos when supporting new parents. You see one of the few mammals who birth their babies at a more underdeveloped stage than us humans are kangaroos. Kangaroo babies crawl up into mum’s pouch and then latch on to the nipple and pretty much feed 24/7. Human babies, if left to their own devices after birth, crawl up their mum’s chest and then latch on to the breast. They then need to be fed very frequently. But unfortunately we don’t have a pouch. But we have strong arms, I nice curvy body to lie on and we can make a pouch by wrapping fabric to help our arms.

Humans are “carry” mammals. These include all the apes and marsupials. The “carry” mammals birth the most immature infants out of all the mammals. They are completely dependent on their mothers for food, warmth and safety. Our babies are fed frequently and because of this our milk has very low levels of fat and protein.

Other types of mammal are “follow” mammals such as horses and giraffes. These babies can walk soon after birth and feed quite frequently as they can keep up with their mothers. Their milk is a little higher in fat and protein than carry mammalsnas they feed a little less. “Nest” mammals such as dogs and cats leave their babies and return several times a day to feed. This means the milk needs to be higher in fat and protein to help them wait for their parents return. And then there are “cache” animals such as rabbits and deer. They leave their babies in a safe place and return every 12 hours or so to feed them. Consequently their milk is much higher in fat and protein in order to sustain them for long periods.

Many baby books seem to think we are nest animals. We aren’t. Human babies expect to be held constantly and fed frequently. Our milk is the perfect consistency for this. This is normal newborn behaviour.

Breastfeeding

Babies feed for all sorts of reasons

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“He’s just feeding for comfort” is a comment us breastfeeding supporters hear a lot.

And why not? Anyone who has breastfed will soon come to realise that breastfeeding is about far more than just food. Yes its handy that this act of liquid love is also optimally designed to grow and nourish our babies, but there is far more to it than that.

Of course babies ask to breastfeed when they’re hungry. And they’re hungry a lot! But they may also be thirsty and just want a quick drink, especially in hot weather. Or their bodies and brains may be in a fast period of growth which needs to be fuelled.

They may also ask to feed if they’re feeling cold, if they want a cuddle, if they’ve missed you, if they’re feeling lonely, or tired, or poorly, or scared. Or if they are in pain. All of these reasons are just as valid as hunger.

Breastfeeding your baby whenever they ask, ensures not only that they receive enough nutrition but that their physical and emotional needs are met as well.