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Breastfeeding Instinct or Skill?

by Theresa Nesbitt, RN, MD
  • Duration: 75 Mins
  • Credits: 1.25 CERP, 1.25 L-CERP
  • Handout: Yes

Human newborns are unique among the primates in that they are born in a neurologically immature state. This lack of sensorimotor capabilities mean that they have special breastfeeding challenges during the first month postpartum. For humans breastfeeding is innate in the newborn but is mostly a learned behavior or skill in the mother, a skill that is naturally learned via observation. Natural breastfeeding is both easy to learn and teach and employs a simplified approach to enhancing newborn motor control thereby avoiding the most common problems of the first few weeks postpartum, nipple pain, difficulty latching and concerns about milk production in most newborns.

Learning Objectives:

Objective 1: Define instincts, reflexes, abilities and skills and how they apply to adults and neonates.

Objective 2:Describe unique characteristics of human neonates.

Objective 3:Identify feeding motor behaviors of neonates in relation to primitive reflexes.

Objective 4:Explain common misperceptions about neonatal responses in relation to breast refusal.

Objective 5:Discuss the reasons why it is appropriate to consider a different approach to initiation and establishment of breastfeeding in term newborns.