Renee Kam (lactation consultant): Baby-led attachment is where a baby uses their own instincts to find the mother’s breast on their own accord. Baby-led attachment really helps to lay down the foundation for breastfeeding. A baby who has had many opportunities, particularly in the early weeks, to do baby-led attachment becomes a lot more orientated towards the breast.
Adele (mother of Charlie, 5 years, Noah, 3 years, and Holly, 4 weeks): I did baby-led attachment because I had a lot of trouble feeding my first baby and getting him to attach and when I saw a video of baby-led attachment it just looked like a natural way to do it, so I thought I would try it to see if that meant that I didn’t have attachment issues with the children I had after my first one.
Miranda (mother of Mattie, 8 years, Tacy, 6 years, Sedna, 7 months): When I had my second baby, when she was born at home and she was lying on me, she all of a sudden attached by herself, which was a wonderful feeling but I never followed-up on it because I didn’t know anything about it. So then when we moved to Australia I so wanted to try it so we tried it with this one. It really started at home, so when we got home we started doing it. You don’t have to do it straightaway – baby-led attachment – it’s something that they can do for quite a few weeks after they’re born. It’s imprinted in their being, I guess.
Renee Kam: If a mother wants to do baby-led attachment the tips that I would give her would be the timing of it. So a baby will be able to follow through on their instincts best when they’re calm. So it would be when the baby’s showing early feeding cues such as turning their head from side to side with mouth open, sticking their tongue out, sucking on their hands, or it might be as soon as their baby wakes up from a sleep. So in those situations baby is typically calm and then if the baby is then placed skin-to-skin contact with the mum and the mum, say, is in a semi-reclined position, then that will help a baby to follow through on their instincts to find their mother’s breast.
Narrator: Find a comfortable position. Many mothers find that a semi-reclined position with pillows behind them for support works well. A partially laid-back position allows gravity to assist the baby in moving to the breast. With as much skin-to-skin as possible between you and your baby, place your baby on your chest facing you between your breasts with her head just above your breasts. Start when your baby is calm, such as when she is showing early feeding cues like turning her head from side to side with her mouth open.
As your baby starts to instinctively move towards a breast, she will start to lift her head and bob it around. As she moves towards a breast, you may find it helpful to hug her bottom in close to you and to support her neck and shoulders with your hand and wrist. It is important to avoid putting pressure on her head as she needs her head free to instinctively move it into an extended position to help her attach and feed well.
When her head nears your nipple, she may nuzzle around to find your nipple and bring her tongue toward it. When she finds the right position, she will anchor with her chin, open her mouth wide, attach and begin sucking.
Renee Kam: Straight after a baby is born for the first one to two hours after they’re born, they’re typically alert and eager and ready to receive their first breastfeed. So when placed into skin-to-skin contact with their mother straight after birth, then that can allow the baby to do baby-led attachment, find the mother’s breasts on their own accord and receive their first breastfeed.
Adele: I did skin-to-skin with all of my children in hospital. So with the baby it probably took a few minutes before like they would kind of just be laying there for a little while and it was a few minutes before they kind of started moving around. But they did the bopping around and choosing a side and finding the nipple and all of that themselves.
Renee Kam: The great news is even if you don’t get to do baby-led attachment straight after a baby is born, babies instincts to find a mother’s breasts are easily reproducible for at least the first few months. When a mother and baby are in skin-to-skin contact, there are many benefits of it such as the baby’s heart rate and temperature, blood sugar levels, breathing rate are all kept stable and also when a mother and baby are in skin- to-skin contact it also helps a mother to be able to learn her baby’s feeding cues.
Miranda: As with the baby-led attachment, I also did try the mother-led attachment, attachment and feeding and it was quite painful. I went to see a lactation consultant a couple of times for her to help as well. Of course, they have told me to use the baby-led attachment, which was great.
Renee Kam: Even if the mother doesn’t have any breastfeeding problems, by using baby-led attachment frequently, particularly in the early weeks, it can help to reduce the risk of developing any breastfeeding problems such as the baby simply not attaching at all or sore nipples.
Miranda: Persevering with the baby-led attachment actually did help to heal the wounds and I think it was around three weeks that we had a happy breastfeeding relationship.
Renee Kam: A mother can do baby-led attachment whenever it’s right for her and her baby to do so. By having done baby-led attachment whenever she feels comfortable to do so, then it means that when she is breastfeeding in public, it makes it easier because baby knows what they’re doing and baby attaches easier to the mum’s breast.
Adele: So I think the baby-led attachment improved my confidence by I was able to see them feeding well, when I could look at them and I could see that they were attached really well and I could hear the swallowing and I knew we were having a good feed and so I didn’t have to really think about what I was doing with them.
Miranda: It helps to know about the fact that everyone is different. With baby-led attachment, it doesn’t matter because babies just go for the breast; they know what to look for.
Renee Kam: Baby-led attachment – it helps a mum and baby get breastfeeding off to a really good start. Then, it may help a mum to be able to breastfeed for as long as she wanted to and reach her own breastfeeding goals.