The Human History of Breastfeeding
Renate Abstoss, IBCLC
Humans have lived on this earth for over a thousand years. Even before the rise of human beings, there were many similar species adapted to their specific environments. They were all mammals. We, today, are still part of this mammalian heritage and it bears a great impact on how we raise our young.
We humans belong to the “carrier” group, so as mothers we carry our children close to us. This is different from mothers who leave their young in a den while the mother is hunting for food.
What does all this history have to do with breastfeeding?
It means that our newborns need physical contact to best adapt to life. Since breastfeeding requires being held close to mom's body, this is what babies yearn for. Breastfeeding isn't just for sustenance, but also for a feeling of security.
In the womb, baby lives in a warm, watery environment, surrounded by the sound of mom's heartbeat and familiar voices. Baby is aware of light and dark, and all his or her senses awaken.
Once baby is born, he or she sees stark light, hears loud noise, and feels extreme changes in temperature. This all leads to the unfamiliar feeling of being exposed. Outside the womb, baby is learning to breathe, feeling hunger and thirst, and grasping the concept of digestion.
How mothers and babies bond during the first hours after birth has a great impact on both of their well-being as well as breastfeeding success:
- Skin to skin contact right after birth, unless there are medical complications
- Quiet time for mom and baby to get to know each other
- "Rooming in" to stay close to baby
- Avoiding any unnecessary interruptions
- Early latching on and suckling
The lactation team at Stamford Hospital is aware of how important these early experiences are for our mothers and babies. That's why it's our goal to have the best outcomes possible for mom and baby in their breastfeeding journey.
We assist babies with their first latch in the hour after they're born, delaying transport to maternity and the nursery. We also avoid bathing baby too soon so as not to disrupt mother-baby bonding. Our lactation consultants encourage and support moms with breastfeeding.
It is our goal to make this time as positive as possible. We hope to continue to send many happy breastfeeding moms and babies out into the world.