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‘Breast crawl’ phenomenon benefits mothers and newborns

© Breast Crawl/2007
All newborns, when placed on their mother’s abdomen soon after birth, have the ability to find the mother’s breast and begin feeding on their own.

By Vidya Kulkarni

NANDURBAR, India – 8 August 2007 – Early breastfeeding is a simple, natural way to ensure that a baby gets proper nutrition. But many women are not aware of the special value of breastfeeding. For them, it is often a struggle to breastfeed.

As World Breastfeeding Week 2007 comes to a close today, UNICEF and its partners are highlighting a natural occurrence called the ‘breast crawl’, which can benefit mothers and newborns around the world. All newborns, when placed on the mother’s abdomen soon after birth, have the ability to crawl to their mother’s breast and begin feeding on their own.

The phenomenon is proving to be a breakthrough in overcoming commonly encountered problems in early breastfeeding. Mothers and birth attendants may be aware of the benefits but unsure how to properly breastfeed. The breast crawl addresses theis issue.

‘An amazing experience’

Recently, in the Nandurbar District of India, a group of caregivers and community volunteers witnessed a demonstration of a newborn performing a breast crawl. After the demonstration, the caregivers were so impressed with the technique that they decided to make the method a part of their routine.
“It was an amazing experience, not only for me and the parents but also the entire staff,” said Dr. Prashant Gangal of the Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India.

The biggest advantage of this method, according to Dr. Gangal, is that it ensures better mother-infant bonding, an immeasurable long-term benefit for both mother and child. “It helps to keep the baby warm,” he explained. “The baby starts getting colostrums [first milk], which have high concentration of antibodies. This offers protection against infections and is important for the baby’s survival.

“Mothers are benefited as well,” Dr. Gangal continued. “Breast crawl helps uterine contraction and faster expulsion of the placenta, reduces maternal blood loss and prevents anaemia.”

Partnerships to promote breastfeeding

In order to to advance this initiative, the UNICEF India office in Maharashtra has partnered with various state and public health institutions such as the Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India, among others.

UNICEF is also supporting a programme to train government and NGO service providers on the basics of infant and young child nutrition. An instructional film that captures the live process of the breast crawl, with specifics on each step, is being distributed.

“Contrary to the belief that a newborn is not able to do anything on his or her own, the baby is alert soon after birth,” says UNICEF Child Development and Nutrition Officer Rajlakshmi Nair. “Soon after delivery, breastfeeding can be initiated. Breast crawl is a simple method to achieve this.” 



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