Initiating breast feeding “Baby led and Mother sped”

I haven’t posted this video because I think it’s valuable. On the contrary, this is precisely the kind of thing that makes my blood boil. It’s another example of exporting North American insanity to other countries. Things to notice in this video:

1. the mother is in the “dead mother” position

2. there is no privacy for the mammatoto

3. who cares if the bureaucrats like it?

4. the baby is removed from the mother’s skin and dried thoroughly, WHY?

5. baby’s forehead is in a worried frown throughout this whole ordeal

6. what if the mother/baby dyad don’t want/need to breastfeed in the first 1/2 hour?

7. why do we need evidence-based falling in love?

8. Diane Wiessinger (one of my favourite lactation consultants) says that initial breastfeeding should be “baby led and mother sped” in humans. It is instinctive to bring the newborn to the heart (left breast) when the mother is upright and undirected.

From my experience with more than a thousand births, the recipe for successful breast feeding is to leave the cord intact, keep the room warm, dark and private, and keep talking to a minimum. Each mother and baby have a unique way of meeting and communicating with each other. Sniffing, licking, rearranging the damp curls, checking the genitals, recognizing family traits in the newborn, kissing, speaking endearments, shushing. . . . there are at least 70,000 unseen things going on in the first hour after birth. We will never be able to quantify and randomize these things. They have to do with the very heart of what it is to be human. We need to respect each mother and baby and keep them together so they can do that thing they do.

12 thoughts on “Initiating breast feeding “Baby led and Mother sped”

  1. Dear Folks:

    The value of this video is that it shows what babies are capable of doing. The behaviors of the attendants reflect their cultural norms, which as, as Michel Odent describes, designed to interfere with the mother and baby. There are just as many crazy things done at birth in US hospitals.

    The idea of letting our biologic template and our hearts guide our conduct at this precious time has, unfortunately, rarely been supported or understood. Human’s new brain, the neocortex, manifested in cultural practices, usually screws things up.



  2. I’ve always been bothered by all that was happening in the room–particularly that the mom seems disconnected and the baby’s performance (and time) is being quantified. After all of the work involved in MY labor (particularly by baby), I don’t know that I’d ever have the heart to watch my baby work tediously to crawl to my breast to feed. I instinctively took tender joy in holding him to my breast and allowing a quick and peaceful latch when he was ready.

    Nikki, I agree that the value of this video is found primarily in what the baby is CAPABLE of doing. I posted this video on my blog long ago, by the way. My purpose wasn’t to say “hey, do it this way” (goodness I hope none of my readers thought so) but rather to see if any of my readers were as baffled by the baby’s ability to move unassisted and find the breast on their own accord. I was horrified at the bright room full of many people. I didn’t know, at the time, if this is a cultural thing or if the number of people had to do with the video shoot. Either way, it was a bit unnerving. And yes, having given (surgical) birth twice in US hospitals, our cultural practices and expectations are equally as horrifying. :sigh:


  3. The roomful of people are maternal health care workers in India (where the video is from) who were on a course or study day at this hospital learning about what newborns are capable of, so that they would be better able to refrain from interfering in the first contact between mothers and babies, with the aim of improving breastfeeding rates and reducing pre-lacteal feeds, to accomplish an improvement in nutritional and health status for infants and young children in India. Their enthusiastic instructor took them up to the labor ward, and secured the permission of the family whose daughter had just been born for a group of them to come into the room and observe, while it was filmed. Imagine the impact it had on all of them – perhaps they are laughing and whooping because they had never just stood by and observed this behavior before. The spectators are certainly very un-selfconscious of the filming.

    From the website’s own FAQ’s ( :

    “2.11 There are many people around the mother in this video. Is it right?

    Delivery and first contact are times during which a mother and infant need privacy. Hence, nobody apart from the minimum necessary health personnel, the child’s father and / or a close female relative should be present in these emotional and private moments.

    The video was taken during one of our training workshops conducted for 30 delegates. We had allowed a few participants in the labour room, to learn the technique of Breast Crawl. The issue was discussed earlier with the mother and her family.”

    I think, moreover, it is significant that it is specified that the baby is a girl, and that getting colostrum rather than anything else is important for her safety and health. Infanticide is still practiced in places in India, almost never on boys. This film’s other message is that girls are just as important as boys.
    I reacted to the many extraneous people in the room when I first saw the film a few years ago, and I imagine part of the baby’s consternation has to do with noise and light levels. Still it does not deter her from moving purposefully and persistently to her mother’s breast and latching on – a strong testimonial to the robust nature of breastfeeding and to the unmedicated newborn’s abilities.

    I live in a country with about 25 people per square mile and the thought of such crowds is very foreign to me. Notions of privacy are highly culturally variable. It is not a given that this family are accustomed to having my kind of elbow room, in or out of their own home, and the birth of a baby in India may not elicit the kind of hushed sanctity it does in countries where the population growth rate is below what is needed to replace losses from death.
    Please see this film in the context in which it was made; the information on the website is well worth reading too.

  4. Very good input, Rachel. Thank you for commenting and for all the good work you do to promote breastfeeding for every baby.

    Many things are acquiesced to by parents who are being kindly spoken to by medical professionals, even tho those things are actually unacceptable. I’ve seen films of medically unnecessary and invasive procedures that probably the mother has consented to, but we have to ask, should she even have been asked to give her permission in the first place? There is a “power over” dynamic when people are in an institutional setting, this dynamic is greater when the person is young, poor, part of a minority, etc.

    Personally, I feel that I, a white, wealthy birth worker in N. America, have no business watching this woman and her baby in India struggling to get together for breastfeeding. By putting up this post, I hope that others will recognize that the way that ‘consent’ is obtained for many actions can be somewhat dubious.
    Ultimately, protecting the privacy of the family immediately after birth has to be a 100% goal, with no one left out. The stakes are too high to interfere.

  5. Points taken, Gloria 🙂
    I work in a hospital and am acutely aware of the power dynamic inherent in my relationship as part of a powerful cultural system, to the users of our services. I’m used to being looked at like I have green skin and two heads when I raise the issue of self-determination for users.

    If there is a potential to change an ingrained system of harmful, unnecessary practices for the better through the participation of *one* family in making an instructional film, and I believe that there is such a potential, then one can defend having asked this family to consent to filming. But whether the film should be freely available on the internet is another matter. Some viewers on Lactnet felt that pixilating the mother’s face implied that what she was doing was pornographic and thus needed to be kept faceless. I assumed it might have been her terms for allowing the publication of the film. We don’t know. That the website includes information about why there are so many people in the room, indicates that we aren’t the only ones who have reacted negatively.

    While we’re at it, I don’t like the term ‘informed consent’ in the context of medical institutions. ‘Information’ is what you tell the ‘patient’ in order to get them to ‘consent’ to what you’re trying to do to them. ‘Informed choice’ has a better ring to it, implying more active participation by the person having (or declining) whatever treatment is on offer.

    Thanks to you too, for helping hold the ethical bar high enough to walk under without bowing our heads in shame 🙂

    • Thanks for your input Rachel!
      I have actually used the video in teaching student nurses about the amazing capabilities of human babies and women (with the the preface “I don’t love everything about this video…”). In a system that is so flipping backward, I feel like it at least offers a visual of something natural (sort of). I also agree that hopefully the benefits of education and change outweighed the risk to this woman and baby.

  6. “It is instinctive to bring the newborn to the heart (left breast) when the mother is upright and undirected.”

    You know, I’ve never thought of that. But now I am, I realise that every time I fantasise about that feed, I picture me bringing baby up to my left breast. My right has never played into it…

  7. I can understand why this video may be upsetting to some particularly those who are working in a very different environment but I must say that I appreciate this video. I am a Doula and prenatal instructor in Mexico and here many people and even some doctors believe that colostrum is poisonous, that breastfeeding causes babies to become dehydrated and causes fevers, that breastmilk becomes blood after 6 months and many other very damaging things. Here most doctors don’t know how to help a mom nurse if she has problems and many Grandmothers formula fed their babies and thus have no experience with the topic. Thus the breast crawl is a valuable tool here. I may not like everything about this video but I truly am grateful that it is available in Spanish and is encouraging mothers that their babies are programed to breastfeed and so that they can try to breastfeed.

  8. I will admit this video is hard for me to watch. I just shared it after a couple years of showing it selectively in my classes. I do have the same feelings as Hayley and appreciate there is information that is helpful in the video. I share other laid back breastfeeding videos in class but for something for them to view at home on their own time this is the only video I have found. Anyone have other videos?

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