The concept, established by Dr. Suzanne Colson's in her pioneering research on neonatal reflexes and maternal instincts, boils down to this: When mothers feed their babies in a reclined position, it draws out babies' instinctual feeding behaviors and works with gravity to make breastfeeding easier, more comfortable, and more effective. (If you'd like to learn more, check out my podcast interview with Suzanne Colson, her book, and notes on meeting her last year). This all upends a lot of what we've taken for granted for some time.
And like many things in breastfeeding and birth, the basis for this "new" idea is the oldest possible one: infants' instinctual behaviors honed over hundreds of thousands of years as a mammalian species. So the concept is, at its core, very basic.
But the application of these concepts is, to my conventionally-trained mind, tricky. How exactly do you do it? Do you expect the baby to self attach? How do you do it in public? Is this a newborn position or do you continue like this forever? Is it wrong to use one of the conventionally taught holds? Are nursing pillows evil? Should you help the baby latch?
This tricky topic is the subject of a new DVD, Biological Nurturing: Laid Back Breastfeeding for Mothers. It was created by Suzanne Colson and Kittie Franz and produced and sold by Franz's company, Geddes Productions. Geddes also produced the groundbreaking video, Delivery Self Attachment, based on Dr. Lennart Righard's research about babies' ability to self attach at birth. And the other fascinating video on Baby Led Breastfeeding. In a way, you can see these prior two videos as stepping stones on the path to Biological Nurturing.
After an introduction to the concept and benefits of laid back breastfeeding, the video presents several scenarios showing moms and babies breastfeeding. The first is a comparison of two mothers in the hospital. One has had a long labor and a separation from her baby. She knows about laid back breastfeeding and is able to initiate breastfeeding well, even though her baby is sleepy. The second is a mom who has had a c-section, and who is struggling to feed in the football hold. She struggles to get the baby to latch (his arms are flailing), and hunches over the baby in an uncomfortable looking position. She then learns how to lean back, and things go much better. The next scenario is of a mom at home, who learns how to lean back on the couch and in the bed. And the final scenario shows several moms at an outdoor cafe, leaning back to nurse in public. A bonus segment shows a mom at home trying laid-back breastfeeding in a rocking chair.
Here are things I liked a lot about this DVD:
- The scenarios are a great teaching tool, both for individuals and for use in a childbirth/breastfeeding class. I'm an extreme left brained learner and kept waiting for a graphic with a list of points (I'm the annoying person in class who would be asking about degree of slope), but I can see how this visual demonstration would be very effective for any audience. I thought that this was very smart and well done.
- The video makes a great case for the reasons why laid back positions are good for breastfeeding. It doesn't get into great detail about neonatal reflexes (I'm personally fascinated by things like the "boxing" arm movements seen in the cross/cradle holds but which Suzanne Colson has shown are a feeding reflex in reclined positions), but that probably isn't that important for most mothers to know in detail. The case is made in a bit of a right-brained way, as the scenarios unfold (no bullet points for me!).
- The overall tone is great - very supportive of mothers' instincts and connections to their babies, very good for showing neonatal reflexes.
- The section showing laid back breastfeeing in public did indeed make it seem quite feasible and natural looking.
- The mothers pictured are a diverse group, with different races, body types, breasts, and birth experiences shown.
Here are some things to know about the DVD:
- Though the video does say that "high tech" (conventionally taught) nursing positions are not wrong, it's certainly possible for moms to get that impression. I like what I've heard Suzanne Colson say in person and in an interview I did with her: Mothers and babies are very adaptable, and can nurse in many different positions.
- There is no direct focus on the baby's latch. This is consistent with a lot of the re-writes about latch and positioning in newer breastfeeding books, though the books tend to supplement the "position will lead to a good latch" discussion with information on what to look (and feel) for in a good latch. If I were using this video in a class I'd similarly supplement it with some discussion and visuals of good latches.
- In the bonus scenario showing a mom nursing at home in a rocking chair, the mother tosses her nursing pillow to the side (almost into the fireplace, if I remember correctly) as she prepares to try a laid back position. That pretty much sums up the treatment of nursing pillows throughout the video.
Here a couple of things I didn't care for about the DVD:
- The narrator's delivery sounds a bit dated. You know the kind of narration where the speaker ounds like she's smiling knowingly the whole time? It's a bit like the voice in this otherwise great Ameda video on latch.
- In one of the scenarios the narrator says something along the lines of: "The baby is nipple feeding, but it doesn't hurt." The mother then adjusts her position and the baby's latch improves. So many mothers don't know what to look for in a good latch, and many believe that nursing is supposed to hurt, so I'm concerned that new mothers might hear that little statement and take away the wrong message.
All in all, this is a wonderful introduction to laid back breastfeeding, and an outstanding teaching tool.
*I was provided with a review copy of this DVD.