By Yvette Stephens, Doula
At a post partum visit yesterday, I was with a new mom who was nursing her baby. As most newborn babies do, the little one got most of her fist in her mouth first, and tried to add the breast to the mix. Finally, hands out and the magic latch. I watched as the babe rhythmically opened and closed her hand on mom’s breast as she drank. In sympathy, I winced, remembering one of my own doing the same, his paper-thin nails sometimes scratching me as he happily glugged down his milk.
The advice to all of us used to be: “Get those pesky little hands out of the way for nursing,” but a study published in Clinical Lactation*, now suggests that babies’ hand movements during nursing are actually innate strategy to help them to be more efficient nursers! The study shows babies soothing with their hand, then replacing the hand with the nipple in the exact same place. “When self attaching, infants will position their own hands and arms to help identify, move, and shape the nipple area.” The other perk is that all of the hand-to-breast action on the part of the baby actually helps to stimulate oxytocin (the feel-good hormone that aids in milk production) in the nursing mother. Not so pesky after all, but don’t forget to keep those sharp little nails short!
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