Although it may not feel like it, all humans are born with instincts. A very interesting example of this is with the breast crawl. Like other baby mammals, human babies are able to initiate breastfeeding. When a newborn baby is placed skin to skin on the breast feeding parent immediately after birth they are able to make their way to the nipple and begin to breast feed with essentially zero interference!
How does this happen?
When the baby is placed eye level to the nipples on the abdomen the baby begins to reach out and massage the breasts. In a combination of several small movements and push-ups preformed by the baby, they are able to eventually reach the nipple and begin to suckle all on their own. This process can typically take 45 minutes to about 2 hours.
The odor from the breast and breast milk are similar in smell to the amniotic fluid. Because of this similarity, babies are naturally attracted to to the smell. It is also believed that the baby may also be attracted to the darker pigment of the areola and nipple, acting as a sort of bulls-eye to follow.
Benefits of the breast crawl
There are many benefits to the breast crawl for both the birthing person and the baby. Because this process allows the baby to learn the breastfeeding process on its own it leads to faster and more effective breastfeeding. This also leads to both early and long term breast feeding success. The baby's massage of the breast in finding the nipple can cause an increase in oxytocin, the love hormone, which can increase bonding. Also the pressure of the baby's feet on the abdomen, coupled with the oxytocin, can help with the contraction of the uterus and with the expulsion of the placenta.
Audrey Logan-Owner and Doula of Elevated Birth