How To Get Your Baby To Do The Breast Crawl

So you've heard of the breast crawl, watched the video (a few times) and decided you want to do it with your next baby. What steps can you take to try it out?

First, let's quickly review some basics of the breast crawl. It's good to remember that babies are born with an innate ability to find their mother's breast, much like other mammals. The 5 senses are a huge part of how a baby successfully does the breast crawl. 

1. Smell- The baby uses his sense of smell to find the breast. This is also the reason he likes to suck on his hands. The scent of the unwashed breast and of amniotic fluid attracts the baby to the breast.
2. Sight- There have been quite a few studies that showed that newborn babies prefer to look at their mother's face than other things in the room. It's also believed that if a newborn can identify their mother's face, they can certainly identify the difference in color of the areola and nipple. 
3. Taste-Back to the amniotic fluid. Your baby loves to smell and taste the familiar amniotic fluid. The nipple is known to have a lipid substance that is related to amniotic fluid. 
4. Hearing-As you talk to your  baby, he'll hear your voice and recognize from his time in utero. It gives him a calming feeling and helps him transition to life outside the womb.
5. Touch-I'll do a whole other post on skin to skin, but touch is so important. It helps regulate temperature, reduces crying, helps with sugar levels, creates Oxytocin in the mother, facilitates bonding, and improves the breastfeeding experience.

utah doula breast crawl

So, what steps can you take to experience the breast crawl? Here are some ideas I have that will hopefully help. Add these to your birth plan, talk with your provider about them, and make sure your birth team discusses this with your baby nurses.

  • Wear something that opens on the belly and chest! This is something I need to change. I have a cute Target nightgown that I've worn for both my births, but it doesn't open easily! 
  • Immediate skin to skin. Ask your provider to put your baby right on your belly. Naked! With a warm towel and blanket over the top of you both. Your body heat will warm him up. Don't worry about a diaper, it will all wash off anyway.
  • When they dry the baby, make sure they don't dry his hands! His hands have amniotic fluid on them that will assist in the smell and taste sections listed above.
  • Limited suctioning. Try not to anger the baby if he's crying and breathing well.
  • A full hour or more consistently on mom's chest. Delay weighing, measuring, diaper, etc. until after you successfully breastfed. This can take up to an hour. Most hospital staff will ask if they can take him away really fast to weigh him, but try to wait! Ask them to come back in an hour. This uninterrupted time will help encourage your baby to crawl to the breast. 
  • Request the routine procedures to be done while on mom. The baby care team can do everything on mom's chest!
  • Be patient. Give him time to rest and soak it all in. Studies have shown it takes baby about 30-45 minute to reach the peak of rooting and hand sucking.
  • Let him do it. Remember, this is instinct for your baby. I know I'll have a hard time overcoming the desire to help him right away. Most nurses will suggest you try breastfeeding within that first hour. There's a big difference in putting your baby on the breast and allowing him to find the breast. Just remind them that you're trying to get the baby to do the breast crawl and you're letting him do it himself. 

Have you had a baby do the breast crawl? We'd love to you to share any other tips you have.

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