The breast crawl is a little-known secret that promotes bonding between newborns and their mommies, and can pave the way for a great breastfeeding relationship!
This post is part of the Breast-Kept Secrets: Breastfeeding Advice from One Mom to Another series.
If you’re pregnant or hope to breastfeed future children, this post is for you. Today, I’d like to share with you a breastfeeding secret.
This one tip can help facilitate a successful nursing experience from the time your baby is born.
What is this secret?
Let your baby do the breast crawl.
I had never heard of the breast crawl with my first daughter. And I didn’t blink an eye when the nurses whisked her away to be weighed and measured and pricked and prodded as soon as I delivered her. (No wonder it took my milk 5 days to arrive!)
But, thankfully, I had a wonderful doula that prepared me for the breast crawl during my second pregnancy.
All the breast crawl entails is requesting that your baby (barring no health emergencies) be permitted to lie on your chest as soon as possible after delivery. The baby uses its senses of smell, touch, and taste to find its way to your nipple. After a short period of exploration, the baby eventually locates the nipple and begins to suckle on its own!
Some babies initiate nursing right away, while others might linger to look at you and take in their new environment. Don’t rush this time of bonding! Just enjoy taking each other in and establishing that connection.
When I birthed my second baby in October 2010, my midwife actually let me pull her out.
Once Baby Girl’s head and torso were visible, my midwife said: “Give me your hands. I want YOU to finish delivering YOUR baby.”
And that’s what I did. I pulled my sweet girl from inside of me right up onto my chest.
“Try the breast crawl!” my doula exclaimed.
So instead of nudging her to take the breast, I let her find it herself, latch on and start nursing.
Yes, without medications and given the environment to do so, it can be that instinctive.
And it was wonderful.
Want to try the breast crawl? Tell your doctor or midwife and doula and note it on your birth plan.
Here’s a little video that shows a newborn doing the breast crawl:
Had you ever heard of the breast crawl? Did you do it with your children? Why or why not?
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This is very neat. I didn’t do this with either of my births. The second one would have been possible, but she was not breathing very well when she came out. The chord was wrapped around her neck and she was blue and purple and lifeless, so they took her right over to help her out. BUT, I did nurse her RIGHT after that. No breast crawl though. 🙁
This is pretty awesome. I delivered my triplets (whom I adopted as embryos) at 34.1 weeks. I couldn’t even attempt to nurse until 24-36hrs old in the NICU. I insisted on holding them skin to skin for an extended amount of time. Expressing a little colostrum, and giving them time – they all sorta found their way. It was amazingly wonderful!
What an amazing and beautiful video! I wish I had known about that when my baby was born, just over 2 weeks ago. I wouldn’t have been able to do that with my first 2, since they were both c-sections, but I was able to do a VBA2C this time and wish I had this info just a little earlier. Thanks for sharing!
The Humbled Homemaker
Congrats on the new baby, Ginny!!Wow–a VBA2C!! That is amazing! Thank you for visiting!
YES, I have heard of the breast crawl! I love this idea. I read about it online and then a friend of mine did this in her very baby friendly hospital. She loved it! I’ve had 3 c-sections, so this has never been an option for me, but I have found that letting the baby seek out mommy and lead the way is an amazing way to initiate breastfeeding in those early weeks. My second baby was an avid nurser, and I used the biological nurturing position when we were in the hospital. I sat up in bed, thanks to the automated bed, and he simply laid on my chest and belly areas as much as possible, without disturbing my incision, and alternated between nursing and sleeping all night long.
I wish I had heard of the Breast Crawl when my babies were born back in the 70’s and 80’s. I am in awe as God’s perfect ways are discovered and shared! I’m sure this life-saving technique will take a very long time to be accepted in USA hospitals, if ever, but I am so pleased to see that governments in developing countries can care so much for their babies and mothers.
Never heard of the breast crawl but I’m due in about 2 weeks. I can’t wait to try this!
I keep hearing about it, but I don’t understand what advantage it has over just doing immediate skin to skin and then encouraging baby to nurse as soon as possible? Am I missing something?
Susan – I’m with you – I’m not sure what the difference between this and skin to skin / nursing is. Both of my boys were immediate skin to skin and encouraged to nurse as soon as possible. I had requested this, but then found out it is also standard practice at my hospital. Loved it!
Four of my five babies did this. Each of these were planned c-sections too. My second boy went for the breast so quick the midwives were amazed at his speed!! My c-sections were as close to intervention free births as I was able, and for reasons like being able to breast crawl, I am truly grateful.
Danielle @ More Than Four Walls
I had never heard of the breast crawl but I luckily our midwife was wonderfully versed in this. While she didn’t end up delivering our son (she was on vacation and I went 2 weeks early) she had told me enough about it and the hospital she delivered in knew how she would handle a birth.
It was so neat to experience but also cool to watch the video to see it from a difference perspective.
Thanks for sharing Erin!
The Woman’s Hospital where I have birth really promotes this. They call it the Golden Hour. The baby us brought straight up to your chest after being pulled out. There is a nurse standing at your chest helping move the top of your gown down as another nurse plaves the baby in your naked chest. The baby is cleaned, checked, foot promoted etc. right there on your chest while the doctor is cleaning you up down below. My sweet girl had found my breast & latched on before she was ever cleaned off. She is still nursing like a champ!!!
With my twins didn’t get to do that but with baby 3 I did. I didn’t know there was a name for it. It just kinda naturally happened!
I did this with mys on and he was a good nurser right from the start. He had no trouble latching and it worked great for us. I’ve heard it called baby lead nursing before too. And if you are unable to nurse right away it is still a good technique to help baby learn to latch, even days later.
I had heard about this while pregnant with my daughter but she had to be assessed by the NICU team for possible aspiration of meconium. But I got to hold her and try breastfeeding within 5 minutes after delivery. Hoping the one I’m pregnant with is a healthy baby with no complications during delivery so we can try that this time around.
I have to have a csection and the hospital I’m delivering at does not do skin to skin on the operating table. Can I still try this in recovery?
When I delivered my daughter 6 years ago (in New Zealand, admittedly) due to needing forceps/episiotomy she was born in the operating theatre. She was placed on me in Recovery (I was unable to hold her in theatre, my arms weren’t strong enough due to meds) and she did the breast crawl by herself. It should be fine, if you ask to hold your baby they can’t really say no.
First this gives them the chance to use a ton of their muscles in a new way right away. They make all kinds of important little connections in their brain about their body immediately after birth. They also get to use every instinct given to them. The movements their body makes also helps them work out lots of kinks from passing through the birth canal. They legs are kicking and “crawling,” promoting strength and in turn giving your abdomen a massage to help the uterus close. Their hands and arms instinctively reach for the nipple and massage the breast preparing it for your first session. They are just about to make an important hand/mouth connection. Their eyes blink and adjust as they search out the nipple. The saliva in their mouth builds indicating their desire to nurse. And finally, their neck muscles. Some babies (my first) actually lifted his own head briefly to latch on.
I’m sure I’m missing some of the important connections that are made but these are a few. Also just the time bonding with baby talking to them soothing them loving them while they make this journey. It’s beautiful.
My firstborn (also a homebirth) did this! Shocked us all! Midwife was sewing a gouge and we were focused down there, but not my newborn! He knew just what to do. So awesome.
How amazing. I’ve watched goats, kittens, puppies, calves and other animals on our little farm do this. I’ve had four kids and how I wish that I had had the support team this mother had in the video. I spent most of the first two days in the defensive with the nurses about my newborns nursing patterns. The breast crawl is amazing. Can’t believe I never heard of it. Thanks for sharing!
It is so amazing!! I didn’t realize animals did it too!