Biological Nurturing and Laid Back Breastfeeding

By Suzanne Colson, Ph.D, RM, RGN, BA, MSc

While breastfeeding initiation rates continue to rise; early breastfeeding cessation rates 
at 3 through 12 months remain stagnant and well below the AAP, Healthy People 2010,World Health Organization and UNICEF recommendation of exclusive
breastfeeding/breastmilk for the first 6 months and continued breastfeeding for at least 12 to 24 months. 

Mothers are often encouraged to swaddle their babies from birth and to keep them in 
the bedside box unless they are actively feeding. This practice assumes that the continuity of maternal nutrition ends at birth as in bottle-feeding, which it does not. Immediate swaddling also accentuates the discontinuity of postnatal transition, as mothers are physically separated from their babies even when they are in the same room. 

New research provides evidence that an approach to breastfeeding that proponents 
have termed "biological nurturing®" stimulates reflexive behaviors in newborn and mother alike. These synchronized reflexes seem to support both effective, pain-free latch and ingestion of milk". (Early Human Development, S. Colson, S. D., Meek, J. H., & Hawdon, J. M. (2008). 

When mothers and babies start off breastfeeding using biological nurturing and laid-back or "Natural" breastfeeding positions from the start, babies easily adapt to more traditional upright positions and are able to maintain good latch and milk transfer. Mothers benefit 
by feeling more empowered, confident and competent. 

So, what is biological nurturing? It's ~ 
  • Mother-baby positions and interactions that release essential hormones and innate (instinctive) feeding behaviors 
  • A method that does not have to be “taught” 
  • Mother-baby innate behaviors that aid latch and sustain milk transfer 
  • An aid in the metabolic adaptation of the baby 
  • More than 'just' skin-to skin contact at the time of birth 
Using biological nurturing, mothers neither sit upright nor do they lie on their sides or 
flat on their back. To start, mother is relaxed and fully supported in a laid-back position that she finds comfortable and sustainable. Then she places her baby on top of her body so that her baby’s head is somewhere near or on her breast. 
In other words, the mother makes her breast available. The baby will be on his/her tummy at the same incline as the mother. In this position, a baby’s innate and feeding reflexes will be stimulated and assisted by gravity. 

Biological nurturing is a non-prescriptive, easy to do method for mothers and babies 
that easily evolve into breastfeeding. There is nothing for the mother to “learn” or remember because most mothers don’t “attach” the baby to the breast. If given the opportunity, most babies self attach and self-attachment has been shown to work better in reducing the incidence of sore nipples. 

All this can rapidly build confidence in the mother. A confident, empowered mother that finds enjoyment in breastfeeding  will breastfeed longer. 

Biological nurturing encourages and allows mothers and babies 
to do what they instinctively know how to do - in comfortable, sustainable positions that enhance and promote hormonal bonding, attachment and ease of breastfeeding. Biological nurturing introduces the concept of nurturing and enjoyment. Supporting mothering behaviors  
that increase pleasure in breastfeeding will help extend breastfeeding duration and improve long term health in both mother and baby.
Various laid-back positions

Newborn self attachment 
with laid-back position

Laid-back breastfeeding   
works with twins

Biological Nurturing is simply keeping your baby 
close to you. 
You see one mother "wearing" her baby skin-to-skin
 and another mother just keeping her baby close.

In practical as well as biological terms the nutritional, developmental and emotional needs of the newborn infant are met through suckling (McNabb and Colson, 2000). 

As early as 1954, Grantly Dick-Reed summarized maternal biological capacity to meet neonatal need. He claimed that breastfeeding satisfies neonatal needs for warmth, security and food. These claims have always made good common sense. Research findings now support common sense.

Grounded in the continuity inherent in the transition from fetus 
to neonate, biological nurturing is a "back to the future" strategy that builds upon previous observations (Reed, 1954; Winnicott, 1964; Montagu, 1971; Pryor, 1973). Biological nurturing can help parents explore more traditional nurturing styles and experience the joys of exclusive breastfeeding from birth.

Watch a video here.

Please see Dr Suzanne Colson’s book