Babies send out an SOS

Madeline had done her homework. She knew that cow's milk is best for cows and breastmilk is best for babies. She was determined to breastfeed even after delivering twins. David was a six-pounder who seemed to have read the breastfeeding manual before his birth! A gentle stroke on the side of his mouth elicited a lovely rooting reflex. Madeline waited for him to open wide then she got the nipple into his mouth. In only a few days, David was nursing well, producing lots of pees and poops and dozing off nicely while his sister took her turn to feed.

Sara was a different story. At five pounds she seemed more fragile and more easily over-stimulated. Like her brother, Sara was eager to feed. But she seemed to get confused by her own activity. Her rooting reflect elicited a quick and energetic turning to the side. She would get red in the face and her breathing would pick up pace. Then she would startle as her mother attempted to get her to the breast. Her outside arm would swing out wildly and then she would start jiggling the nipple in her mouth as if she couldn't imagine what in the world she was supposed to do with it.

"Get a grip!" Madeline exclaimed as Sara demonstrated her eating style to me at her one-week-old weight check.

Sara's behavior is a classic example of a baby "Sending out an SOS" (Sign of Over-Stimulation.) Changes in her body--more pale or red skin, fast or choppy breathing, and increasing jerks or tremors of the arms or legs--can be a call for help. (
"She just can't multi-task," I explained. She is talking with her body and saying, "I can't do two things at one time: control my body and learn and how to nurse."

Madeline learned how to watch for Sara's SOSs and how to respond to them. Sara nursed best if swaddled firmly. Sometimes she would need to suck a paci or her mom's finger a minute until her SOSs decreased. A gentle sway would both calm her down and help her wake up to eat. Mom's sensitivity to her daughter's body language helped both her and Sara learn how to nurse effectively.

Now Sara weighs 12 pounds and her brother 13. They are thriving on Mom's milk, and Mom is thriving on them!