Latch-on is a big deal when you nurse. Getting a newborn to achieve that solid seal and then synchronize the suck-swallow-breathe rhythm is essential. When I was a younger occupational therapist, I was all about the mechanics of achieving oral control and teaching that rhythm. Some babies have medical issues that make it harder, but some are just fussy bussies. They react to everything, and their own crying fuels even more crying. I realized that if a baby is agitated, they aren’t in a place where they can learn the rhythm. Of course! Fussy babies are lousy learners, and therefore they are often lousy feeders. What could get a fussy, uncoordinated baby calmer to focus and learn one of the most important skills of this period of their lives? That was one of the questions that lead me to become a Happiest Baby educator. Dr. Harvey Karp’s Happiest Baby on the Block techniques deliver just the right combo of sensory input to get a newborn calm and focused to nurse, not just calmer for sleep.
Some lactation consultants have suggested to me that the 5 S’s of Happiest Baby interfere with nursing. I really have no good response. If they decided that getting babies calmer with Happiest Baby is bad for breastfeeding, what could possibly be going on in their minds? I found that they didn’t know all the steps, just the swaddle, thought that it would work so well that babies wouldn’t be awake enough to feed (it is rare indeed that a healthy baby doesn’t wake when hungry), or mistakenly thought that good calming with any other technique would dissuade a mom from nursing her baby.
I haven’t met one, not one, mother who thought that nursing should end because she had a better way to calm her baby. Quite the other way around. Moms that can get babies calm and focused faster enjoy nursing and are encouraged to keep going. They do not incorrectly assume that a fussy baby is “done” with nursing. Thinking that fussiness equals dislike is a big error of judgement, and an actual reason that mothers give when they are asked why they stopped breastfeeding. Happiest Baby techniques could have helped them see what their babies needed: some calming sensory input to help them get down to business!